Today, most companies won’t survive by sticking to their traditional structures. In a fast and rapidly evolving world, it is important that companies stay ahead of the changing consumer. As technology advances, so too do the industries that use it. The way Netflix and other video-streaming sites have changed the entertainment industry is one example. Companies never know when new technologies and mobile apps, like Lyft and Uber, are going to change the game drastically.
Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for an organization to take years to launch a product without testing it out as it develops. How will it survive years from now in an entirely different territory? As proven by top companies, like Google and Spotify, agility leads to innovation. Companies can get ahead by adopting agile practices in the workplace and restructuring the way teams are established and work together. This means implementing small, collaborative teams known as “squads” with agile mindsets. As a result, companies are able to consistently deliver improved products that respond to the ever-changing demands of the consumer.
What are squads and how do they work?
Squads are customer-focused product development teams that make up an agile business. They are typically made up of three to nine people, integrated from various departments, such as design, delivery, testing and development. Each member of a squad brings a particular set of skills to the team, while simultaneously working to achieve one common goal. This goal is typically defined by a product owner who prioritizes the work that needs to be done. The team then executes this goal by:
- Creating a simple plan that only details what cannot change prior to execution.
- Dividing higher-value tasks into small chunks.
- Deciding how much work will be allocated and how tasks will be completed.
- Consistently improving working versions of the product in “sprints” or short cycles.
- Holding quick “stand-up” meetings to review progress, while brainstorming ways in which they can improve future sprints.
These stand-up meetings give each member of the squad an opportunity to discuss what he or she has done, what they intend to do and any problems that they have experienced so far. External meetings with all squads, on the other hand, allow teams to meet to briefly discuss what each has done to achieve its goal. One person from each squad expresses any relevant concerns, problems or transverse solutions that might benefit other squads and their success.
Oftentimes, a collection of squads will get together if they can benefit the same area of the business. For example, a collection of Android, iOS and Windows Phone squads can make up a larger mobile software development team. While these squads aren’t working on the same projects, putting them together allows them to learn and build from each other through collaboration.
Through transparency and collaboration, squads can work efficiently to introduce quality products to the market in the least amount of time. Instead of recognizing problems six months down the line, squads can identify roadblocks much sooner, responding and creating solutions as they arise. Consequently, this can help to beat their competitors and increase customer satisfaction.
The Benefits of Agile Teams
It is without a doubt that most of the top companies attribute their success to the Agile Manifesto. This is primarily because it has proven to drive results, allowing companies to decipher between what works and doesn’t work for their product and consumer. The benefits of being agile starts from within and transcends to the outside world. By shifting the structure of project workflow and adapting to a continuous improvement process, team members are motivated to produce quality products quickly and efficiently.
Instead of being constricted to bureaucratic practices, they are given the opportunity to freely innovate. This not only improves productivity, but enhances the overall employee experience. By working in cross-functional teams, employees become more rounded by developing new skills and perspectives from their colleagues. Not to mention, they gain exposure to different departments that they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
Through transparency and consistent communication, all team members are aware of any issues that appear. With all hands on board, everyone can be a part of the solution. Instead of starting from scratch after months of hard work, companies can save their time, money and resources by having agile teams that identify problems as they go. Furthermore, tasks that are completed in a shorter period of time within a smaller group increase accountability. If a team member isn’t pulling his or her weight, the impact does not go unnoticed. Team members can adjust their work accordingly and find appropriate solutions.
The Agile Mindset
In an agile team, unfavorable outcomes aren’t seen as failures. What other teams would define as failures, agile teams would define as feedback. Squads that have agile mindsets have a positive attitude and take all possible outcomes as lessons. Every time a team receives feedback, they become one step closer to making their product better for the consumer. Agile teams have a never-failing thirst for knowledge as they are consistently challenged to think out of the norm to achieve tasks as quickly as possible.
Instead of assuming that they know what is best for the consumer, they ask questions to better understand their target market. By sharing one common goal, these team members become more concerned about the overall success of the team rather than their individual successes. While team members are expected to pull their own weight, they are also expected to step up and come together when needed. This organizational culture of support and resilience within various squads is what drives a company towards success.