Zombieland Project Management
The Science of Empowerment

Hiring for an Agile Team

Agile Team What characteristics do you look for when hiring for an agile team? Our next Calgary APLN meeting is a panel discussion on the topic and looks set be a great one.


Some broad characteristics identified in the planning emails for the panel include:

Characteristics of a high performing team:

  • Collaborative / effective communicator
  • Willing to cross boundaries
  • Work side by side / discuss work out problems real time
  • A lot of face to face communication required
  • Humility - accept feedback
  • Able to compromise / support team decisions
  • Able to reflect back on events and provide insights (critical for retrospectives)
  • Always looking to improve
  • Think about things rather than blinding moving forward…..
  • Pragmatic - Knows what “just” enough is, Do what it takes
  • Adaptive / Flexible - Change direction as required
  • Takes initiative / self motivated
  • Willing to try new things (may be evident by a desire for continuous learning)
  • Can figure out the most important thing to do next. Doesn’t need to be told what to do.
  • Risk tolerant – able to make a decision and act based on the information known
  • Able to work in fast pace / intense
  • Willing to work in a team room – little privacy, very noisy, no prestige
  • Can challenge ideas in a respectful manner
  • Work incrementally - Willing to revisit work
  • Accepting that the big picture will evolve over time

Detecting these characteristics:

  • Behavioural descriptive questions – tell me a time when….give me an example of….
  • Interests / desires may be evidence of the characteristics
  • Informal references from prior projects / peers etc.
  • Auditions – pairing on an activity
  • Trial periods

The panel members have also identified a set of technical requirements based on the various roles (developer, test, architect, etc), but I am most excited about who we have on our panel...


Jennitta Andrea (Tester)
Jennitta has been actively engaged on a variety of different agile projects in Calgary as a hands-on practitioner (analyst, tester), consultant (retrospectives, assessments), and instructor. Her writing and conference presentations have brought international recognition as a thought leader in the area of agile requirements and test driven development.

Gerard Meszaros (Solution Architect)
Gerard is an independent consultant specializing in coaching agile teams. He is the author of the Jolt Productivity Award winning book "xUnit Test Patterns - Refactoring Test Code" and frequently speaks at agile conferences.

John Johnston (Business Analyst)
John is a BA and Agile coach at ThoughtWorks. He is particularly interested in finding ways to make agile and user centered design work together. Right now he wants to know more about Lean and Kanban systems.

Janice Aston (Project Manager)
Janice is an Agile project manager and coach currently working as an independent consultant. She is passionate about building high performing teams and delivering business value.

Dustin Aleksiuk (Developer)
Dustin is a Calgary independent software developer and consultant. He has been using agile methods in various roles for the last 9 years.


From the planning emails back and forth for the event it is apparent we agree on the main points and I find myself thinking “Yes, that’s right, person really gets it”. So, for my next project I really want a team comprised of the panel participants. Which, given their demand might be a bit tricky.


Anyway, if you can, come and hear from a panel of experts on Wednesday 28 at the Calgary APLN meeting. Get a more in depth discussion about the attributes for each role, ask questions and share your experiences.


Update: Here are the notes from the session: Download Hiring for an Agile Team


Robert Dempsey

I wish I was listening to this panel as it looks awesome. If you record it please post it for those of us unable to attend.

One item that I would add to your list is at least a minimum understanding of business. A team should not have to rely on the PM or ScrumMaster explaining to a product owner why more things cannot be put into a sprint or why certain items have dependencies that need to be completed first. The team should be able to negotiate on their own behalf. For that, they need to understand the motivations of business and communicate effectively. Gone are the days when a developer (or tester or UI engineer) can only perform their craft.

Mike Griffiths

Hi Robert,

Great point, yes we need an appreciation and strong interest in the business domain concerned. It builds empathy for the business issues and enthusiasm for the goal.

I will be taking notes at the session and will post a link to them shortly.



>Collaborative / effective communicator
>Work side by side / discuss work out problems real time

Let's look at the opposite - team unwilling to co-operate when problems arise.
Take a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82LfwnffUd4

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