Why Agile Begs for Better Team Communication

When you’re putting together a team—whether it’s in software, medicine, financial services, or aeronautics—building effective communication is something that needs to not only be a consideration, but also a high priority. You might have all the skills necessary to build a rocket that can send you to Mars, but if the individual members of the team don’t communicate, there will likely be failure to launch.

So, how do you promote effective communication among a group of individuals? That’s the big question. In a world where some people might even have differing definitions of the actual word “communication,” it can seem impossible to get everyone on the same page.

First, it’s important to note that people generally have different communication styles. How one person communicates and through which form of media could be completely different from his or her closest team member, which is something that independent quality and testing consultant, Isabel Evans, recently explained to StickyMinds.

“People's personalities affect their preferred communication styles and media. Some people prefer diagrams to text. Some people prefer text or cannot access diagrams. Some people like explanations and are happy to read long documents (I'm among them...),” Evans said. “Others don't have time, or patience, and need a message on a page, or even three bullet points. Many IT people feel the need to explain what they are doing in detail to people who just need a headline.”

What if we focus on communication within an agile team? Agile teams work more closely together and need to be able to effectively communicate issues along the way. Different defects and issues are addressed earlier in development, so if team members fail to communicate, the process stutters and eventually flames out.

When addressing the issue of agile team communication, Payson Hall of StickyMinds streamlined communication through smaller teams, full-time commitment from team members during a project’s lifecycle, and co-location whenever possible. Of course, sometimes you just can’t get everyone in the same place at the same time, but the purest form of team communication is a small, dedicated group trading eye contact and face-to-face conversations.

All teams need to talk, but agile begs for communication. It just can’t function properly without it, and Evans truly believes that agile can and will put a spotlight on any communication issues that arise.

“One of the benefits of agile approaches is that they mean any flaws become harder to hide and they manifest as problems more quickly than they would in a long, traditional project,” she said. “That includes communication problems; they become so obvious. Effective communication is always critical.”

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