Team organisation

Team organisation2017-10-12T22:05:27+00:00

Principles of Agile team organisation

In many ways, Agile teams work much like any other change delivery function

Like any other team, they include:
In other ways, however, Agile brings a radically different model of organisation. In fact, Agile often ignores or even flatly contradicts most of the traditional rules of project organisation.

  • A core delivery team.
  • An extended support network of experts & authorities.
  • Regular governance.

In other ways, however, Agile brings a radically different model of organisation. In fact, Agile often ignores or even flatly contradicts most of the traditional rules of project organisation.

This is illustrated by the basic principles that govern how Agile teams are organised.

The Agile team is small.
  • 10 is too many.
  • More undermines flexibility & adaptability.
  • If you need more, large-scale Agile is nothing like a traditional project or programme.
The Agile team is simple.
  • Agile defines few formal roles.
    • Product Owner.
    • Iteration Lead.
    • Developers.
    • Users.
  • Each role spans multiple disciplines.
  • The boundaries between roles are ‘soft’.
The Agile team is self-organising and non-hierarchical.
  • The team is a network of equals.
  • Not a hierarchy of leaders & followers.
    • No one is in charge. No one gives orders.
  • The team’s methods are defined by the team.
  •  The team decides almost everything together.
    • And absolutely everything is open to debate.
  • The role of the Iteration Lead & Product Owner is to facilitate & motivate, not to command.
The Agile team is insulated.
  • But not isolated.
  • External interference & disruption are minimized.
  • The boundary is managed by the Product Owner & Iteration Lead.
  • Persistent disruption is dealt with by:
    • Acquiring the necessary skills.
    • Bringing in new team members.
    • Eliminating the need for this item.
The Agile team is professional.
  • Organisations employ Agile teams for their expertise.
  • Only individuals with a proven record of discipline, expertise, versatility & self-management should be included in Agile teams.
  • They should allow the team to tell them what needs to be done.
The Agile team sets its own work.
  • Tasks are defined by the team, not the ‘manager’.
  • Tasks are adopted by individual team members, not allocated from above.
The Agile team is collaborative.
  • All work is under multi-perspective scrutiny.
  • Discussion and informal review are constant.
  • Pairing is common.
  • Collaboration is facilitated by having multi-skilled team members.
The Agile team is self-sufficient & cross-functional.
  • All the skills & experience needed for success.
  • Implementing a single story may demand many skills.
    • And therefore contributions from many team members.
  • It includes users as team members.
  • The Extended Team should be minimal.
The Agile team is collocated.
  • Increases productivity.
  • Facilitates & inspires collaboration.
  • Simplifies decision-making.
  • Eliminates complexity.
  • Minimises communications errors, gaps & delays.
  • Increases communications bandwidth.
  • Eliminates disruptions.
The Agile team is permanent.
  • Often based on a Product Team.
  • Builds team relationships.
  • Encourages sharing of knowledge & experience.
  • Facilitates anticipation & pre-emptive development.
  • Sharpens team methods & practices.
  • Encourages active management of quality, technical debt and continuous improvement.

The Core Team

The Core Team is the group that is responsible for the actual development of working software – the basic goal of Agile.

It is in almost all respects the Agile team – and it is only because modern uses of Agile are so diverse that they aren’t quite identical.

Creating the Core Team is probably the most difficult challenge in building an Agile organisation. Unfortunately it is also the very heart of the Agile approach – if you cannot follow the Core Team model of organisation, you will probably find Agile impossible!

Shared responsibilities

Agile includes many responsibilities that belong to no one. That’s because they belong to everyone.

Shared Responsibilities

General role responsibilities

At the highest level, this is what each member of the Core Team does. For more details of what each individual role is responsible for, click on the relevant role title or navigate to the role’s dedicated page via the People menu.

Product Owner
  • Business management & direction.
  • Stakeholder management.
  • Team strategy & prioritisation.
  • Leading & participating in Agile ceremonies.
Iteration Lead
  • Champions an Agile approach.
  • Coaches the team in Agile concepts and practices.
  • Acquires facilities, resources, etc.
  • Manages Backlog.
  • Tracks the team’s progress.
  • Facilitates Agile ceremonies & events.
  • Eliminates impediments & drives improvements.
  • Analyses & evaluates stories.
  • Implements stories.
  • Tests stories.
  • Represents the user community.
  • Drafts, interprets & evolves stories.
  • Evaluates, challenges & agrees changes to stories.
  • Implements stories.
  • Feeds back to business domain on development, changes, etc.

Practice-level responsibilities

The following is a map of the top-level responsibilities each role has for each Agile practice. See the individual practice pages (under the Lifecycle menu) for  details.

PracticeProduct OwnerIteration LeadDeveloperUserExtended team
Product PlanningLeadInvolvedBusiness, SMEs
Create a Story MapInvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolvedInvolved
Release CharterInvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolved
Release PlanningLeadInvolvedSMEs
Epic PlanningInvolvedInvolvedLeadInvolved
Iteration 0InvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolvedSMEs, Architects
Iteration PlanningInvolvedLeadInvolved
Daily Stand-up MeetingLeadInvolved Involved
Create a StoryInvolvedInvolvedLeadLead
Create a SpikeInvolvedInvolvedLeadInvolvedAs required
Estimate a StoryInvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolved
Refine BacklogInvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolved
Conduct ShowcaseLeadLeadLeadInvolvedStakeholders
Conduct RetrospectiveInvolvedLeadInvolvedInvolved


  • Leadership may be shared by several roles. With some exceptions, only the main lead role is identified here. For more detail, see individual practices.
  • usually refers to the Developers and Users as simply ‘the Team’. In this table, they are distinguished to clarify the nature of user involvement.

The Extended Team

Although the ideal is self-sufficiency, this is very hard to achieve in large, complex corporate organisations. So we also need to take account of the Extended Team.

NB. If at all possible, skills or experience the team finds it needs regularly should be brought into the Agile team.

Extended Team roles & responsibilities

There are no formally defined or mandated roles in the Extended Team – it consists of whoever is needed for the work at hand.

Typically, the Extended Team might include:

ExecutiveStrategy, direction, resourcing, global priorities.
ArchitectOwner or authority on the technical Big Picture, standards, strategic goals, etc.
IntegratorIntegrating the team’s outputs with that of other teams.
Independent testerValidating on behalf of stakeholders, testing cross-team developments.
ProcurementVendor selection, contract management, performance management.

Candidates for the Extended Team

There’s no shortage of other candidates for membership of the Extended Team. Broadly speaking, it might include:

  • Any SME:
    • business, functional, technical (build master, DBA, etc.), implementation, support…
  • Or authority:
    • Process owner, operation manager, etc.
  • Or other stakeholder:
    • I.e., anyone who may affect or be affected by the team’s success.

For example, as well as the suggestions made above, many core Agile teams will need to create a relationship with some or all of the following:

Candidates for the Extended Team

Your own organisation may contain many others, or the same functions by other names.

Building your Extended Team

Extended Teams don’t just happen. For details of how to build an effective Extended Team, click here.

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