Self-Organizing Roles on Agile Software Development Teams

Author(s): Rashina Hoda, James Noble, Stuart Marshall
Venue: Transactions on Software Engineering
Date: March 2013

Type of Experiement: Other
Sample Size: 58
Class/Experience Level: Professional


Self-Organizing technical teams have existed for a very long time, but have only recently come into popularity with the introduction of Agile development. The article argue that simply due to the reactive nature of Agile development Self-Organizing roles are a good fit. More traditional manager-led teams typically have designated roles for each individual, which can cause barriers in communication and insufficient vision of the overall project. In contrast the Agile process focuses building teams that have a high level of interaction and understand the big picture very well.

The main point of the article is to analyze Self-Organized Agile teams. Grounded Theory was used to recognize and understand the patterns of behavior found in how these teams solve/react to problems. The data collected was done so from 58 participants from 23 software organizations throughout New Zealand and India. These individuals came from all areas of development and were tracked over the course of 4 years. Data was collected through interviews.

The results showed that Self-Organized teams sometimes unknowingly all into specific common roles in the team. The 6 most common roles observed are:

  • Mentor - guides team in learning agile
  • Co-ordinator - acts as representative to customer
  • Translator - translates between business and technical language
  • Champion - interacts with management in support of self-organizing Agile
  • Promoter - interacts with customers to ensure their involvement
  • Terminator - identifies team members that threaten productivity
  • The article argues that in order for a truly self-organized team to exist each member will pick up one, or more, of these roles informally. Moreover, what role each person plays can switch depending on what is needed at that particular time.