The agile team and its roles

Assign work to teams, not teams to work
— Mary Poppendieck

It takes time for teams to gel and become productive. Therefore the best way when starting a new project is to assign it to a core team that maybe has even already some experience on it (did a similar one, knows the technology, did a previous version, etc.) but most important they already worked with each other. These are permanent teams, with a long-term responsibility for a product or a service.
This is not always possible, maybe you have a green-field project that is completely new and therefore you have assembled a new team or you have always temporary project teams but keep in consideration that there will be time needed to reach a good productivity level, the team will not be very fast at the beginning and will make errors. In this case, if possible, try to put in place some countermeasures, like do before a pre-project assignment or bring the team together for a team event.

The most important foundation of a successful team is the people. Good people with the appropriate combination of traits and skills are needed.
Generally, agile methodologies are not so strict about roles (beside the Scrum framework): many frameworks are empirical and based on a work – test – adapt cycle, therefore the actual method and the roles can be changed by the specific company or project based on their needs and feedback. But these three roles sort of crystallised in the past projects experience and are considered a good foundation.

The Process Owner

The role of the process owner (sometimes referred to as agile team leader, scrum master or agile project leader) is the role responsible for how delivery happens from a delivery process point of view.
Where are we located? When are workshops and meetings? Which best practices and techniques should be used?
The process owner is responsible for making sure there is a delivery, including supporting the team and removing impediments that are in the way of a successful delivery.
The role needs a process-driven individual with skills like: being good at making things happen by setting goals, encouraging and motivating others. This is not about planning other people’s time, but setting clear goals and enable good communication within the team.

The Product Owner

This is the voice of the customer and other key stakeholders. The product owner is chief of requirements and is responsible for delivering requirements to the team on a day – to – day basis. The product owner is responsible of what is to be delivered.
This role requires a passionate, dedicated person with a clear vision on where is the business benefit. As requirements can come from many places, good communication skills are needed. A product owner has two rather different jobs: the external role of listening to stakeholders and creating an optimal backlog of requirements, and the internal role of explaining and communicating with the team.

Sometimes I am asked if the process owner can be the same person as the product owner.
Well, in theory yes; I don’t like methods that are too prescriptive and – like Scrum – tells you that you need to have a team with one Scrum Master and one Product Owner, disregarding your project, your domain, your people and your culture.
But in reality the two roles are very different and you will need people with different skills, I would say that someone with those overlapping skills is a rarity.

The Team

The team role is a general term for everyone else needed on the team—the creators of the result. The people taking on the team role must be multi-disciplinary and need to have complementary skills. An agile team must be self-sufficient and self- organising, and this means that whatever skills are needed to climb the mountain top need to be present within the team.
This is a big theme so it will be in a next post.

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4 thoughts on “The agile team and its roles

  1. Pingback: The agile team as self organising | Look back in respect

  2. Pingback: The agile team as cross-disciplinary | Look back in respect

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