On team capacities and agile delivery

Companies are widely adopting agile project methodologies such as scrum, increasing flexibility and responsiveness of their delivery programmes to outside influences. Just like traditional project workflows took some time to be perfected, adopting agile is a learning process for most companies that demands multiple reiterations itself before a company finally gets performance levels up to cruising altitude.

The question comes to mind what key drivers of agile performance really exist – what do we need to focus on, as a company that wants to adopt agile delivery, to achieve optimum results?

Obviously, there’s no one answer to this question. But several key factors play an important role – and here, we would like to touch on one of them: capacity planning for agile projects, or how to manage resources when your entire organisation is going agile.

Agility demands core teams

We believe having part-time team members on board can hinder agile performance,  and teams consisting out of nothing but part-timers are a mistake. In recent history, case studies have shown a move from permeable teams organized ad hoc around workloads to strong, stable teams that have work running through them (for example, agile release trains in SAFe methodology). Teams need to move through Tuckman’s first stages of team development (forming, storming, norming) before they get to the key stage: performing. When team members join and leave, teams have to go through these stages once more, before tensions settle down again. Churn is, of course, inevitable but as long as this is limited in scope and managed properly, even performant teams can cope with these changes.

The strength of agile delivery also lies, partly at least, in the fact that you can measure key performance indicators such as sprint velocity, which is hard (if not impossible) when your team is only employed part-time. If a team member is only working two days a week for you, and he or she gets ill during those two days, your project progress grinds to a halt immediately and you get delayed by an entire week.  Public holidays, teambuilding events, full-day meetings and other mandatory events can wreak havoc once these occurrences start claiming time originally assigned to your project. Teams need to consist out of full-time members. These can be virtual teams, actual hierarchical teams, remote teams spread across the world or local teams in a physical location, together – it doesn’t matter. Team members are to be staffed full-time on a project for optimal performance. Of course, increased team cohesion is a nice side effect.

Dedicated product ownership is not optional

Agile delivery is grounded on having a product owner readily available for answering questions, helping resolve impediments and guarding the full picture of what’s to be delivered. These persons need to be prepared and available, ready to join scrums, demo moments and team retrospectives. They’re a key bringer to value, and having these persons tied up on other work can hinder project agility. While we believe this doesn’t need to be a full-time position (e.g. a product owner can work in the same role on multiple projects), a baseline level of availability will be demanded by each project.

You need sufficient agile leads to deliver projects

Your agile teams, by now hopefully each with a dedicated product owner and team members assigned full-time, require agile leadership to coach and guide the team on their agile journey. Business sponsors need a point of contact on the delivery side, and the project’s progress depends on someone that removes impediments, increase product and delivery alignment and mainly focuses on growing the team up to optimal performance levels. Especially while the organisation as a whole is still busy adopting agile, some guidance can do wonders.

Of course, agile leads are not in infinite supply – agile leadership profiles are high in demand and the market for talent is tight. Projectworx can you in sourcing certified scrum masters and agile project managers to aid your company in its agile adoption. As a staffing agency focusing specifically on project and change delivery, Projectworx has consultants on board that will help you deliver the project performance you desire. Contact us for more information.