What are the roles and responsibilities in an agile team?

If you’re involved in the world of business, you may have come across the term “agile team.” Agility is often understood primarily in a physical sense and can conjure up thoughts of acrobatics and nimble movement. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see how the concept can be transported over to business: an agile team, in short, is a team that is laser-focused on progressing in a certain way and reaching a certain set of results in an effortless manner.

This blog post will first provide a more detailed definition of what exactly is an agile team, before exploring some of the key roles and responsibilities of such a team. We’ll finish with a look at how you too can develop agile skills.

What is an agile team?

The Agile Alliance publishes a full definition of the practice. According to them, a “team” in the agile sense is “a small group of people, assigned to the same project or effort, nearly all of them on a full-time basis.”

This gives a flavor of what agility looks like in practice. Rather than having individuals working solo and separately from each other, they can instead work together to use their specific skills to achieve a goal. Agile teams also tend to take the approach that problems, as well as achievements, are shared rather than seen as individual failures or accomplishments.

Main roles – and their obligations 

Before looking at what specific roles might be found in an agile team, it’s important to first examine how agile teams are built on the basis of shared responsibility. In this sense, many major institutions across the globe could be described as agile. Many governments around the world operate on a collective responsibility basis, for example. The notion of “shared Cabinet responsibility” is common in many national governments and allows members to work out their problems in private with the team before proceeding with a collective endeavor. On the other hand, some non-agile businesses function very differently. Many large corporations hire on a specialized basis and use incentives for individuals to thrive, potentially at the expense of others.

But what do other roles in an agile team look like? According to the Agile Alliance, an agile team might not actually place as much importance on roles and responsibilities as other ways of working. “Roles and responsibilities,” according to this organization, “do not matter as much as results: a developer may test, perform analysis or think about requirements; an analyst or domain expert can suggest ideas about implementation, and so on.”

Does that mean there are no roles in an agile team? On the contrary, no: it just means that everyone’s roles are tied closely to the shared responsibility of getting some joint endeavor achieved. In a software context, for example, it’s still the case that an agile team will have some people that are focused on sales (perhaps applying their business acumen), while others are focused on product management, with yet others using their coding skills to actually create the item. Agility doesn’t eradicate these role distinctions; instead, it just means that everyone has a focused responsibility – to achieve the stated end.

How can you become more agile?

If you’re looking to upskill, then becoming more agile could well be the way forward. One way to do this is through education. Some people might take an agile-focused short course, for example. However, the best way is often to choose a more long-term course like a Master’s of Business Administration (or MBA for short). If you’re concerned that this sort of upskilling might not be possible, perhaps because you’re already employed and don’t feel you have time to travel to a university to study, you could always consider a university like Aston, which offers digital courses and even an online MBA degree – so don’t rule it out at the first hurdle.

Once you have your enhanced educational skills under your belt, you can then start to decide how to apply them. Often, the way to go about doing this is to dip your toe in the water of the world of work and find out which of the above roles and responsibilities fit best with your new-found agile skills. An internship in an agile team may be one way to go about this, while another could be to take a permanent post – although that is often a deeper commitment.

Don’t forget: some sectors are more likely to use agile frameworks for their teams than others. One sector that often uses this framework is tech; many such companies take an agile approach and find that their employees often come to expect it. Other sectors, however, may be more traditional, so it’s worth working out whether you’re in a profession where this skill might be useful.

It’s worth remembering that agile skills are both distinct from and interlinked with wider business practices. Agile teams often define themselves in terms of what they’re not. They like to point out that agile working can bring benefits that traditional business practices don’t necessarily offer.

This doesn’t mean that you have to box yourself in to agile working, but instead, you can see it as a skill that you can use in a complementary manner even if your wider context is a more traditional business environment.

Overall, it’s pretty apparent that an agile team brings with it a lot of different roles, along with different responsibilities. An agile team can involve everything from shared responsibility for ultimate goals to laser-like focus on particular results and ends. Developing your agile side in the business world is therefore a great way to get yourself into a more skilled position and role.