How to Maintain Motivated and Agile Development Teams

Contributed content / By Paul Azorin / 8 November 2019

Agile has rapidly become the preferred development methodology for businesses interested in building cutting-edge software that accurately meets consumer needs. The flexible nature of the approach often leads to frustration, however, if projects drag-on. This guide will help managers keep their teams motivated throughout the development process.

The agile development methodology is becoming a popular trend for projects that require a large degree of flexibility. That’s one reason why an estimated 41% of businesses use agile project management often or always. 

I’ve used agile extensively during my career as a developer and project manager for Hewlett-Packard, Electronic Arts, and Nike. My company, BairesDev, has also been a leader in Agile development since we founded it in 2003.

At BairesDev, we rely heavily on agile methodology for development.

Agile is favored by many corporations and software development companies because it allows high-quality software development that meets end-user demands. It also helps firms avoid costly mistakes and investments in software that don’t satisfy consumer needs.

What Is Agile Software Development?

Agile is by far the most popular flexible software development methodology in use. The system was formalized in the 2000s and focuses on creating a minimum viable product or software iteration as early in the software development cycle as possible.

This differs greatly from traditional, linear approaches to software development. Linear approaches like waterfall follow a set of sequential steps that results in a completed piece of software before a single end-user views the product.

Big technology companies and software development services use agile development when they seek to disrupt an industry with real innovation. It allows them to understand what their customers want before they invest too many resources. 
 
There’s also a strong danger with linear development that a company invests considerable resources into a product that doesn’t solve end-user needs.

One major problem with Agile development, however, is its lack of structure. This can lead to budget overruns, missed deadlines—as teams add on new features and components—and indefinite extensions. All of which can combine to frustrate developers. 

Executives and managers can help their agile teams stay motivated by hiring the right people, launching the project with the right product owner and backlog, and conducting standups and retrospectives.  

4 Ways to Motivate Agile Teams 

  1. Hire the right people
  2. Choose the right product backlog and owner
  3. Conduct regular standups 
  4. Conduct retrospectives

How to Motivate Agile Teams

The very nature of agile development makes it difficult to keep project teams motivated. While it does help produce the best possible software, the lack of structure can make it seem like an endless process when things get tough. 

Project managers and stakeholders can keep their teams motivated by following the below steps.

1.    Hire the Right People

The most important way to ensure success in agile development is to hire the right people from the outset. Agile projects often use multidisciplinary development in order to produce high-quality, realistic iterations.

This unique mix of specialists means that each member must hold their weight and possess the interpersonal skills necessary to resolve conflict. 

Managers should focus on hiring candidates who enjoy working in a collaborative, fast-paced environment; agile projects require constant dashes to complete the latest iteration. This means that the entire development team must work together seamlessly and be willing to put in extra work as deadlines near.

In addition, agile development methodology demands flexibility. 

Executives must hire candidates that are willing to change directions and switch-up existing plans rapidly. End-user feedback can completely transform the parameters of a project and its target features in the blink of an eye as well. 

2.    Ensure a Quality Product Owner and Backlog 

The best agile projects begin with a high-quality product owner. They are responsible for working with all stakeholders to build a list of requirements, features, and other tasks necessary for a successful development. 

This list is referred to as a product backlog. Each backlog item should have a clear rank, description, size, and value to the project. 

The product owner also helps determine the development team’s priorities and plan the larger development lifecycle. Items at the top of the list are completed first and should have a detailed vision for their completion. 

The product owner should also regularly meet with the team to go over the backlog and make edits based upon new priorities.

If either the product owner or the backlog is lacking, the entire project is less likely to succeed—and morale will be even more difficult to maintain. 

3.    Conduct Regular Standups

Once a project has started, the single-best way to keep teams motivated is to hold regular standup meetings: daily check-ins between the project manager and team members.

Project managers should make sure to ask their team members the following questions:

  • What tasks have you completed since we last spoke?
  • What are you working on today?
  • Can you manage your workload and meet deadlines?
  • Are they any obstacles that I can help with?
  • How can I help you remain motivated?

These daily standups are essential to discovering morale issues before they cause major problems. 

Standup meetings don't have to be extremely formal - They can take place in someone's office as a way to check in and discuss potential challenges.

Managers can make these standups a formal affair, but they can also be completed casually by stopping by team members’ desks for a quick chat when they’re free.

4.    Conduct Retrospectives 

Regardless of whether the product owner is an experienced manager or a first-timer, one of the most important things they can do is solicit feedback at the tail-end of the project. 

An end-of-project retrospective will help the product owner, stakeholders, and team members understand what the most successful parts of the project were. It will also help them identify roadblocks and find solutions for the future.

Project managers should also focus on team motivation and morale during this period. This information will help executives understand how best to motivate their team in the future, as well as what issues seemed to hurt morale most during development.

Agile Comes With Its Own Challenges 

The agile development methodology has become popular for good reason: It enables companies to build high-quality software that meets consumer demands without spending valuable time and resources on features that end users may not want.

However, my experience as a Big Tech project manager has shown me that the process itself can be difficult to manage and withstand. That’s because of the considerable amount of uncertainty and pressure that come with iteration deadlines.

Managers can help their teams stay motivated and on-track by hiring the right people from the outset. In addition, stakeholders should ensure that the project has a quality product backlog and owner.

Project managers should also complete regular standups with their staff, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that no individual is overwhelmed by an unfair workload. 

Finally, executives should seek feedback once the project is over to improve their strategy for the next development initiative.


 

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