How to Create an Agile Membership Team to Better Use AMS Software
1 + 1 = 3. Synergy is the purpose of an agile membership team—not budget, not friendship, and not convenience.
The aggregate function of a team is to produce results greater than each individual could produce on her own. Easier said than done.
In order to accomplish lofty goals with your membership software, many organizations are borrowing concepts from agile software development, and it’s not hard to see why.
Agile development teams:
- Bring products (and revenue!) to market faster
- Produce higher quality work
- Are inherently flexible
- Cost less to operate
- Create better engagement and customer satisfaction
It’s almost like a list of everything every organization wants…
Of course, in order to take advantage of all the benefits of agile development, you have to actually build the team first! If you’re feeling like there’s something missing from your organization, that the production from your team is lagging behind the workload, or your marketing campaign isn’t getting the engagement you’d like from your membership base, you may want to consider forming an agile development team. But before you announce the new system with a company-wide memo, we’ve compiled some tips to guide your decision.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the best ways to build a membership team that can operate efficiently and effectively in an agile environment.
Related reading: 50 Ways to Boost Member Engagement
OK, let’s start your journey into agile development teams!
Start boosting your association membership and engagement today with this free download. Check out our eBook: 50 Ways to Boost Member Engagement.
Evaluate the personality fit
Depending on the size of your organization, you may or may not have the “pick of the litter” in regard to choosing the talent for your team. But no matter if you have multiple options for each position or not, it’s important to understand how an individual’s personality can affect the function of your team, for better or for worse.
If you’re going to embrace agile, your team members need to understand that they will have to do things differently than they have in the past, and also adopt a different mindset.
For example, in the agile environment, “passing the buck,” which is also called a dependency, will not fly. Employees who are constantly in the limbo of “waiting on approval” or using somebody else’s work (or lack thereof) to excuse their own lack of production have no use in an agile development team. This is primarily due to the fact that an agile team, by definition, possesses the ability to define, build, and test their product. Yes, there is typically input and additional testing from outside the team, but at its core, the team takes extreme ownership of the product.
Another example of a personality trait required for a successful agile culture is the ability to accept mentorship. A core tenet of agile is the concept of continuous mentoring, and not just from a senior employee to a junior employee. The success of the team depends on the fact that members will learn from each other and use that knowledge to advance their production. This goes back to the idea that the team output is greater than the sum of its parts, or 1 + 1 = 3.
Bottom line: Don’t underestimate the importance of evaluating personality fit for an agile team. If your organization is small and you don’t have a choice in talent, make sure to address any personality concerns head on at the beginning.
Evaluate the skill set
In agile development, there are certain skills that are required to get the job done. And this isn’t to say that team members can’t build these skills as the project wears on, but you need to be aware of what you have from the start and where you need to improve. The following list is not all inclusive and is non-technical, but it will give you a general understanding of what you need.
Collaboration: Team members will need to collaborate with each other on a daily basis, many times with face-to-face conversations. They will need to have trust in their teammates to do their part. Both developers and membership people will need to work together, so direction, considerate, and appropriate communication is key—it is the responsibility of the sender to make sure the receiver is taking in the information.
Minimizing complexity: Agile environments are not the place to go off on a tangent of feature-rich development that doesn’t contribute to the goal. Adding unnecessary complexity to a development project reduces the amount of time moving toward the goal—this can be compounded when you have to go back and fix or undo the issue.
Testing and feedback: Fail faster! A continuous feedback loop, especially during the iteration process, helps foster innovation and create synergy. Make sure that your team members are prepared to submit their work for feedback and accept the facts, and also that fellow team members understand the importance of giving direct and honest input.
Motivation: To round out this list of soft skills for agile development, it’s critical to make sure that team members are thriving off the feedback they receive. This skill is all about encouragement, partnership, and compromise without having to make concessions that erode trust.
Evaluate the team-oriented mentality
As discussed earlier, collaboration is key in agile. As it turns out collaboration at this level doesn’t just happen, you have to design it.
There is an established theory in group development that teams go through stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing as they mature. Wonderful things like trust, understanding, and optimization happen during the performing stage, but it takes hard work and dedication to get there.
One of the worst things you can do to stunt team growth is to constantly make changes to the structure of the team. Team members moving in and out revert the entire group back to the forming and storming stages, which are not ideal for productivity. Here’s some more info on how to keep your best team members.
Team members must be prepared to work without silos and extended periods of self-direction. A team member should have a demonstrated history working well in this type of setting, as opposed to independently.
Evaluate potential fit for a role
Agile teams have different roles than traditional teams, and each team has a need for distinct roles. That said, each role does have one thing in common—in addition to at least one specialized skill, each role must have practical knowledge of the business.
The team lead is responsible for directing the team’s activities, prioritizing, finding resources, and shielding the team from external problems. People in this role generally have backgrounds in project management and come from a position of authority.
Next, you’ll need at least one team member, and more likely several. These are the designers and craftsmen, responsible for producing individual components of the product. This role requires technical skill in at least one area, and likely more than one on a small team.
Then, there’s always the owner of the product. This person maintains the priority list for the product from an end user’s point of view.
Lastly, every team needs a stakeholder, somebody who will use the product and make sure it integrates into all other related systems required for the organization.
One thing to keep in mind as you look at filling these roles in your team: These are roles, not positions. Depending on the unique situation of your organization, there may be crossover between people to fulfill the responsibility of each role. As you can see, the components of an agile team are quite different than a traditional team, so plan accordingly.
Evaluate the hunger for professional development
Agile is all about moving fast, testing, iterating, and achieving results. People who thrive in an agile environment have a lifelong learning mentality and a desire for continual learning and training opportunities. The lifetime 9-5 worker who is only motivated by the fear of being laid off is not the ideal candidate for an agile team.
The ambition for professional development is critical to the motivation of a member of an agile development team. Without it, the mandate of collaboration and mentorship seem like an obligation rather than an opportunity. Again, both of these activities need to flow seamlessly on a daily basis for success in an agile environment.
So there you have it, a beginner’s guide to forming an agile team. Keep in mind, although these concepts are borrowed from software development, they can apply to countless fields like membership, human resources, IT, etc. The common denominator is treating your project like a product (such as your AMS software), complete with a list of features and a launch date!
One of the primary benefits of using agile methodology is an increase in member engagement. For tips and idea on how to increase member engagement, please considering downloading our free eBook 50 Ways to Boost Member Engagement.
Is your member-based organization ready to reap the benefits of an agile development team? Any questions about the material we’ve covered here? Let us know in the comments below!
About Jennifer Barrell
As the Director of Content, Branding & Buzz at Aptify, Jen oversees the strategy and execution of brand management and content production across the organization’s global offices. She thrives on bringing compelling content and useful information to associations to help them grow and engage their membership. She's also an avid fan of mid-century modern design and all things science fiction.