The intersection of technology and leadership

How do I tell if a team is agile?

Vivek asks what are the signs you use to tell if a team is agile? I prefer not to count the practices they might be using because that is almost too easy (to get wrong).

Example: I remember talking to a person about their team who claimed they did lot of automated testing. They apparently had tests but upon further questioning I found many of their tests didn’t work and hadn’t worked for quite some time. I continued to ask questions about their practices and they mostly seemed excessively ritualistic without the team benefiting from them.

Ticking off a checklist about practices is easy to do, yet hard to do well. I prefer to ask questions with a less explicit goal in mind. I care more about how people do what they do rather than what they are doing right now.

I prefer to look for consistent behaviours across what they are doing that tell me:

  • they care about what they’re doing
  • they understand why they are doing what they are doing, and actively question when it’s not clear to them
  • even better is that they can explain to people why they do what they do as a team and what value each part of their process has (I dare you to try that with your current team)
  • they help each other out even if it’s beyond their normal roles because they don’t believe that people fit in boxes perfectly. And most importantly;
  • they’re constantly trying to improve the environment they are in.

What other ones do peope look for? I’m sure there are plenty more.


  1. André Faria Gomes

    To sumup, I think that they are all commited with the goal, the company and the other members of the team.

    Nice Post.

  2. Francisco

    I like to say that agile is feedback + improvement, the rest you can discover by yourself.

    And that’s why I don’t like to ask the question about a team being agile or not. It’s too easy to get the wrong answers from it.

    Great post.

  3. Vivek Vaid

    Patrick – In my post I suggest we measure teams agility by not necessarily what teams are doing by *why* they are doing something. e.g. I mention the use of burn charts to track only multi-iteration progress.

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