28 May

An agile team is one that…

Category:AgileTag: , :

I recently asked an open-ended question on LinkedIn. I asked people to complete the following sentence.

An agile team is one that…

The request got a lot of suggestions, and there are some I think particularly worth exploring. This post looks at my two favorite answers.


Firstly, “An agile team is one that self-corrects,” wrote Gunther Verheyen, my friend from my days at Scrum.org. The statement is pretty meta but makes so much sense once you get your head around it.


I interpret self-correction as the simple practice of learning about something and then taking deliberate action to capitalize on that new knowledge. Simple enough but imagine the powerful consequences. Every time we know something new, we respond and adapt to that newly understood reality.

You might be adapting your product features by learning that people prefer option A over option B in a live site test. You might be adapting your team’s engineering practices because you hypothesize that investing in automated deployment will increase your product quality and team throughput. This situation is a pure learning opportunity. In either case, you are meeting a new understanding with deliberate execution and self-correcting with empiricism as you go.

Pivoting without drama

Next up, my friend Richard Hundhausen, a Scrum and DevOps mastermind, replied, “An agile team is one that can turn on a dime for a dime.” This is an American saying which means that the team can change direction in any way needed at low cost and low friction. I think this is brilliant.


An agile team must have superb engineering practices in place, enabling them to pick up any new challenge, whether it’s changing feature direction on a product or engaging a new line of development altogether. Engineering excellence is a core requirement to pivoting without high friction. A simple example is the ability to remove a feature without tearing apart the entire solution. Loosely coupled code enables this sort of change at a low cost.

The team must embrace new realities without drama. Navigating situations in which we must turn on a dime is fraught with ambiguity.  Ambiguity, as you likely know, causes Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). The more trust on a team facing FUD, the quicker the team will navigate through it and get to business. This team is self-correcting (as per Gunther). And the team must be able to do so efficiently and without spending too much time and energy on the change itself.

These weren’t the only responses, of course, but they were my two favorite ones.

You can see the whole thread here.