Super Agile Teams Need Superstars

Every team needs good people. Great teams need superstars, that is, one or more top-notch contributors. Agile teams are no different.

A team composed of average contributors will produce average work. If you’re lucky and the team collaborates really well, you may get above average results — unlikely, but possible and worth striving for.

A team composed of average contributors with at least one superstar will produce above average results and possibly great results. The superstar(s) will challenge the team. The average members will strive to meet the challenge.

What about a team of all superstars? I don’t know that such a team has ever existed. If it did, the superstars would likely clash, disagree and dissolve into chaos. Be careful what you wish for.

Why are superstars so special?

Pay attention to the success stories you hear. Software development teams succeed in many ways and for many reasons. When a software team achieves a major advancement and a big success you will almost always find that there was strong leadership. It may have been a visionary, an idealist, or a perfectionist.

Regardless, someone took control and challenged the team to achieve more than seemed possible.

Organizations spend a lot of time on parity — getting everyone on the team to the same performance level. That approach makes sense on the whole but only if you also spend time on excellence.

Can you develop superstars internally?

Can you develop your own superstars or must you hire them from the outside? Developing them is hard to do but hiring them is not simple either. Regardless of your approach, answer the following questions:

  • What is important to your business. What do you value most? How would define superstar within a particular group or team?
  • If you have a star performer today, what characteristics does that person exhibit? What makes him a superstar?
  • When someone exhibits superstar behavior, do you acknowledge and reward it? Do you let others know about the behavior?
  • Do you provide the best tools and work environment that you can in order to extract maximum performance from your teams?
  • Do team members have access to mentors, education and training to help them improve and become the best they can be?

Superstars don’t magically appear though they can disappear quickly if you don’t acknowledge and reward them. Want your agile team to do better? Nurture a superstar.

Updated: January 23, 2011 — 11:15 pm