5 Principles on What Makes a Great Agile Development Team

The CIO must learn and drive the business, set the strategic direction for IT and proves that he or she can get teams executing to the strategy. I've posted many times on how agile practices are key to a CIO's success because it creates transparency, dives culture change, and is a key element to innovation.



IT is All About the Team


So yes, strategy is important. A process to manage execution is very important. But in reality it's all about the team. It's the team that must learn the strategy, execute, improve practices, and deliver great results on time. Over the last several years at BusinessWeek, at McGraw Hill Construction, and now at Greenwich Associates I've had the benefit of working with great teams and individuals.

What Makes A Great IT Team


Here's a short list of what makes a well executing IT team 'great' -

  • Disciplined on Solving The Right Problems  - Ever been in a meeting that seems to drift from one topic to another without fundamentally solving anything? Many teams have this problem, but the best ones develop the discipline of prioritizing "Problems to be Solved", focus their meetings on the problems assigned to the agenda, and use "parking lots" to capture tangential questions that need addressing. Strong teams know that fewer, more productive meetings are a key to getting more done.

  • Courageous to Ask Challenging Questions - The only way for teams to develop a shared understanding is for them to ask questions. More importantly, because product development needs to be data driven, I encourage development teams to ask questions even to the point of challenging their product owners. This dialogue is critical in order to get a firm understanding of what and how to get things done and to help drive toward a simple product definition.  

  • It's Not Just Getting IT Done, But How You Do IT - I tell teams that is equally important to me how they get things done - not just whether they got them done. Are Agile stories well documented with acceptance criteria then estimated and sized before the Sprint start? Are database and software architecture considerations factored so that new development is targeted toward a reference architecture? Are standards for QA and performance, reliability, security, and data capture factored in?  

  • End to End Agile Culture - Great teams work with ambiguity and know how to think agile. They learn how to fail fast. They partner with IT Operations on a DevOps practice. They are disciplined with retrospectives and optimize agile for increasing velocity, improving quality and developing other practice improvements. 

  • Lead Data Driven Mindset - Strong teams are data driven. They learn how to capture data and develop metrics to drive their priorities and decision making. They lead by example with the CIOs self-service BI programs. 

A Special Thanks


So these are the teams that I have to thank for success and some recent recognition on Forbes, (5 Things to Do When Leading a Digital Transformation) and Sync Magazine (Portrait of the New CIO). Thank you!

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