Building High-Performing Agile Teams

Agile approaches have evolved into an indispensable part of contemporary business practices. Businesses are empowered to enhance their operational efficiency and elevate the level of value bestowed upon their customers through these methodologies.

The core of these methodologies is centered on the establishment of agile teams that exhibit exceptional performance, comprising professionals from diverse backgrounds who work together cohesively towards the attainment of mutual goals. This article investigates various ways to construct agile teams that perform exceptionally well, together with the suitable methods linked to every approach.

Establish Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Clarifying expectations and allocating tasks according to each team member’s skills and expertise enables leaders to elevate productivity, encourage collaboration, and improve employee satisfaction. To ensure that roles and responsibilities are effectively defined and understood, leaders can utilize various proven methods and approaches from research in the field.

One such method is the RACI matrix, developed by Dr. Jay Galbraith. This framework helps assign specific tasks and responsibilities to team members, reducing confusion and promoting collaboration. The RACI matrix can be broken down as follows:

  • Responsible: The person tasked with executing the work, ensuring the task is completed successfully. This individual is the primary contributor to the task’s outcome;
  • Accountable: The person ultimately answerable for the task’s completion and quality, overseeing the responsible party’s work. This individual has the authority to make decisions and is often responsible for delegating tasks;
  • Consulted: Subject matter experts who provide valuable input and advice on tasks or projects. Their expertise and knowledge contribute to informed decision-making and problem-solving;
  • Informed: Team members who need to be aware of the task’s progress or outcome, though they may not be directly involved. Keeping them updated ensures that everyone stays aligned and understands the overall status of the project.

Cultivate Cross-Functional Expertise

Cross-functional expertise empowers professionals to adapt seamlessly to a variety of situations and make valuable contributions to projects beyond their primary area of specialization. By incorporating knowledge from multiple disciplines, individuals develop greater versatility, positioning themselves to confront complex challenges effectively. The T-shaped skills model, which was first introduced by Tim Brown, CEO of the esteemed design and innovation consultancy IDEO, accentuates the significance of striking a balance between in-depth expertise in one’s main field (represented by the vertical bar of the ‘T’) and a comprehensive understanding of a broader range of subjects (symbolized by the horizontal bar of the ‘T’). Building T-shaped skills can be achieved by:

  • Engaging in continuous learning to develop new skills and deepen existing ones;
  • Collaborating with colleagues from different disciplines to share knowledge and perspectives;
  • Pursuing side projects or hobbies that complement and expand one’s primary expertise.

Optimize Team Size and Scalability

A team’s size and scalability are critical factors in the success of any project or business. A small team may lack the required skills or resources to fulfill objectives, whereas a large team may become cumbersome and difficult to manage.

The Two-Pizza Rule is a straightforward but useful rule that can assist businesses in optimizing team size and scalability. The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, introduced this guideline, which emphasizes the need to keep team sizes small enough for effective cooperation and decision-making.

Smaller groups can improve collaboration and decision-making in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Streamlining communication: Smaller teams have fewer communication channels, which can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page;
  • Fostering creativity: Smaller teams can encourage creativity and innovation by allowing team members to collaborate more closely and share ideas more freely;
  • Enhancing agility: Smaller teams are more agile and can respond more quickly to changes or unexpected challenges.

Foster Trust and Psychological Safety

Effective collaboration and optimal results depend on team members’ freedom to share their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of punishment or condemnation. Trust and psychological safety play a pivotal role in achieving this, as team members who feel safe and secure in their work environment are more likely to engage with one another, share insights, and take calculated risks.

To build trust among team members, Judith E. Glaser introduced the Five Cs of Trust, which consist of:

  • Communication: Emphasizing open and honest communication to build transparency and trust;
  • Commitment: Demonstrating a shared commitment to goals and values to foster trust among team members;
  • Competence: Showing expertise and ability to enhance credibility and trustworthiness;
  • Consistency: Maintaining consistency in actions and behavior to build trust over time;
  • Care: Showing care and concern for team members to create a sense of psychological safety.

Maintain Clear and Transparent Communication

Open communication and transparency help team members work together and avoid misunderstandings. When communication is clear and transparent, team members can work together more efficiently, build trust and rapport, and achieve better results. The Johari Window Model, introduced by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, is a framework that can help individuals and teams enhance self-awareness and communication skills.

This model consists of four quadrants:

  • Open Area: This pertains to information that is familiar to both oneself and others. It encompasses shared knowledge, emotions, and experiences that are crucial for promoting successful communication and cooperation within a team;
  • Hidden Area: This refers to information that is exclusive to an individual and not known by others. It comprises personal thoughts, emotions, and experiences that are not disclosed to others and can impact the individual’s conduct and communication;
  • Blind Area: This denotes information that is familiar to others but not to the individual concerned. This area may encompass blind spots or deficiencies in behavior or abilities that can impact the individual’s communication and interactions with others;
  • Unknown Area: This pertains to information that is undisclosed by both the individual and others. It may involve subconscious or repressed thoughts and feelings that can impact the individual’s behavior and communication without their conscious knowledge or realization.


Modern businesses use agile methods to improve operational efficiency and consumer value. Building high-performing agile teams is crucial to achieving these goals and requires clear roles and responsibilities, cross-functional expertise, optimal team size and scalability, trust and psychological safety, and transparent communication. By implementing these strategies and techniques, organizations can cultivate agile teams that exhibit exceptional performance and successfully navigate the complex challenges of today’s dynamic business landscape.