Why Agile Teams Need Their Own Goals

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Q: How can multiple Agile teams work together effectively? Should we establish common goals for them?

Author Darrell Rigby responds: In my experience, Agile teams actually do better when they have separate rather than shared goals. The goals should be aligned so that teams are not wasting resources or working at cross-purposes, but aligned goals are different from shared goals. Take Saab Aeronautics, which develops the most cost-effective fighter jet in the world (the Gripen) using about 100 Agile teams. The teams are aligned on the goals for the overall jet, but teams working on propulsion have different goals from those developing brakes, for example.

We often create what we call taxonomies of teams to show how Agile teams fit together and to make those relationships transparent to the entire organization. We design the taxonomy to minimize interdependence while making sure that each module quickly and easily plugs into the others. This gives teams autonomy to act quickly without wasting time and energy on constant coordination. We think of it as creating a microservices architecture for technology, deploying loosely coupled applications that are self-contained but with clear interfaces. Amazon, as you probably know, uses microservices. Those microservices are mapped to autonomous teams that are generally capped at 10 members. We, too, consciously design business architectures and taxonomies so that each service ties closely to a development team.