Agile Software Development: Motivating Teams for Faster Results

Software firms use agile software development to complete projects for clients with greater efficiency. The typical agile environment requires the use of teams of software developers. Some members may participate in a software development project via telecommuting, and others may work on-site. Teamwork is essential to an agile team’s success. We often get questions on how to make organizations more effective through agile development. One answer is that leaders use motivation techniques to facilitate rapid software production. Agile leaders often serve as facilitators rather than managers. Here, we consider insights from a study in Ireland that addresses motivation in agile teams:

According to High, Conboy, and Lang, “Team members can motivate and influence each other’s behavior through frequent meetings and communications (Das and Teng 2001), such as, the daily stand-up. They can be motivated to develop their skills by learning from more experienced personnel, and encouraging each other to take responsibility for specific areas of the work (Hansson et al. 2006).”


Considering the Work Environment 

In agile, a software application gets developed in a series of iterations. Agile team leaders move the team towards results through these short phases. They don’t have months or years to develop their teams into cohesive units. Agile teams might have a few days or a few weeks to execute one iteration. Within a single project, the developers can be different for each iteration. However, the success of the project depends on completion of all iterations. Agile team leaders must feel comfortable working with a range of personalities and motivate them to collaborate in rapid fashion. As a general rule of thumb, leaders can appeal to team members who are intrinsically motivated by offering them a degree of control over their work (even in a brief iteration). They can also use other incentives.

Addressing Employee Motivation

It might seem simple to assign employees their preferred tasks and to offer them opportunities to derive social status from their project roles. On each software project, a team member’s roles and tasks could differ. Leaders can motivate some employees by offering task variety while motivating others by giving them their preferred tasks every time. Several team members may have comparable experience performing the tasks in a single iteration. Leaders must think critically about who is the best person for each role or task.

Maintaining Accurate Skills Inventories

If team leaders will assign employees to their preferred tasks, they need to have an accurate inventory of everyone’s related skills. They should create a team work schedule and establish preferred methods of communication. They should allow more experienced members the time to teach less experienced members. If leaders don’t create these kinds of conditions for a project, then the team members can become de-motivated. They can also lose motivation because they don’t receive enough opportunities to advance.

Moving to Agile  

We recommend that agile team leaders assign a variety of tasks to project members. They should also allow for as much role flexibility and task ownership as the project allows. If every member on an agile team feels challenged and given a reasonable time to complete his or her assignments during an iteration, everyone wins. When one or more team members are unhappy with their assigned tasks and related deadlines, then the entire team may become de-motivated.

Over the years, we’ve seen many IT firms achieve better results by adopting the agile software development process. With a heavy focus on efficiency and quality control, agile teams can satisfy each client and the target audiences who will use their software applications. For more ideas on increasing motivation on your agile team, please contact us today.

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