Agile ME Meetup: Agile Roles

In a series of meetups, we will try to cover highlights of what to focus on if you are in the beginning of an Agile transformation. In the third meetup we discussed different Agile roles.

In case you missed this or previous sessions do not worry. Talking points and the presentation for this session is available below, and the previous session can be found right here: Introduction to the agile mindset and here Agile ME Meetup: Agile Frameworks and here Agile ME Meetup: The Agile mindset


Some of the agile frameworks prescribe specific roles which are different than the ones in traditional development, that’s why we keep one session in a series to describe these roles along with the mapping of the roles in traditional development and the supportive roles exist in the organization.

What the Agile principles guides us about the roles?

Agile Principles about the teamwork

Daily interaction between business and development is a key of success for the team. It can make sure that development team is focusing on the most wanted features and moving in the right direction. The important business decisions can be faster if a strong collaboration between business and the development exists. Developers can communicate with business for their queries and get feedback of their hypothesis without investing too much effort. 

Motivation is one of the key factors of success in agile teams. Leaders need to make sure that each and every team member is motivated towards the team goals by building up an environment and culture of transparency, trust and support.  

Agile teams should be self-organizing teams which means team should be able to do the desired work independently without external help. In order to do that the team need to be cross functional, which means the team should have required skillset to collectively get the job done, all the way from requirements to delivery and support. Here an important myth needs to be highlighted. Cross functional team is not about individuals having all the skills. Individuals having multiple skills are handy but cross functional team means that the team is composed of different skill members and collectively the team must have all the skills require to finish the work with high quality.

Balance between autonomy and alignment

Agile teams have very high autonomy which means the team is independent on choosing the way they work. The thing which we need to be sure is that being autonomous do not mean that the team is independent of compliances and regulations. Instead there must be balance in organization governance and team autonomy. For example, the team needs organization vision and strategy to follow. Also autonomy does not mean that each individual can do whatever they want without aligning with other team members and the organization. The team needs to maintain high autonomy and high alignment in order to be effective and predictable.

Henrik Kniberg describes this in the video “Spotify Engineering Culture”, I will advise you to go through the video if you could not yet.

Team autonomy and alignment (from video Spotify Engineering Culture) by Henrik Kniberg

Roles in Scrum, how it works?

The Scrum Framework has very well defined different roles that we discussed.

Product Owner:

  • Set the priority of work items
  • Groom team on product vision and requirements
  • Maximize the value of the work done by development team.

Scrum Master:

  • Guide the team over scrum values and practices.
  • Makes sure the team is focusing on the sprint goal
  • Reduce impact of impediments.

Development Team:

  • Cross functional and self-organized
  • Includes developers, testers, analyst and whoever is required to complete the work.

The whole scrum team works together on a common goal which is to deliver a product increment at the end of each sprint.

Roles in Scrum

Manager vs Leader:

In order to maximize their performance, agile teams need supportive leadership who can provide the environment of psychological safety and a culture of transparency, trust and cooperation. Scrum Master as servant leadership is the good example of agile leadership. As compare to traditional managers agile leaders prefer coaching instead of driving the team, and facilitate the team to take decisions instead of taking decisions for them. Agile leaders manage work instead of managing people, as people are human beings and able to manage themselves when proper guidance is provided. Agile leaders don’t need to monitor people instead they build an environment of trust and intrinsic motivation which result in better output.

Managers vs Leaders

Some Organic roles

Agile is about building the culture in the company. Culture cannot be copied from other organizations instead the people of the company can build their own culture upon their own values. Henrik Kniberg was agile coach at famous startup Spotify, he created a video where he described the culture they have built over the time at Spotify. The video is an excellent example about how to build culture with agile values.

Following terminologies were introduce for the teams or set of people belongs to different teams but have common interest or skillsets

  • Squads: Single cross functional agile team
  • Tribes: Group of squads focus on same area of product
  • Chapters: Group of people with same skillset. They may be part of different squads as the squads are cross functional
  • Guild: Group of people inclined towards common technology, tools or ideology. Guild is completely organic community which can be build and decompose based upon the interest of people in the organization

For more details, please go through the video by Henrik Kniberg.

Team organization at Spotify (from video Spotify Engineering Culture) by Henrik Kniberg

Supporting Roles

There are other important supporting roles which are required in an organization to make sure the supporting functions are carrying on. Agile organizations follow the lean principle in case of supporting roles and keep these functions just enough to make sure agile teams are able to deliver values and their needs are fulfilled. These functions may be HR, finance, procurement, IT, sales etc. but the key point is to make sure that the leadership of these functions must have awareness about agile values and principles to support the teams.

Functions other than development team


During the session as the interest grows among the audience we realize that we need separate session about Teams, which is scheduled on 21st January. Slides of the session is available at Session 3.

Next Session:

In the fourth session, planned for January 21st, the focus will be on how to build high functional agile teams.– Hope to see you there!

You can read more about our meetups on our meetup page AgileME-Dubai.

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