I was asked this specific question a few days ago by a senior manager. He had received a presentation on the Agile principles and some of the methodologies which lead the market (XP, DSDM, Scrum).

Although impressed he wanted some more information on how the Principles lead to a greater chance of a high performing team.

We had a coffee and chatted about it but I wanted to ask the question to the PM Community to crowdsource a more authoritative response which might include presentations or white papers I had overlooked.

Disclaimer - I will take full credit ;-) haha however that aside I do think it is a valuable question as I struggled to apply the principles to a real life scenario other than the startup community.

  • 1
    Agile principles don't make a group a high-performance team. Rather, they unleash the full potential inherent in high-performance teams.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 15:08
  • I never said "make a high performance team" CG. I said contribute to. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 5:18

3 Answers 3


Agile, and in particular Scrum, is about creating a self-managed and self-organized team.

Even if in a context different than software development (self-managing teams in a telecommunications company), this paper shows that self-managing teams are more effective than comparable traditionally managed groups that perform the same type of work.

Some months ago I read an MSc in Computer Science thesis that can be very useful for your purpose: An Investigation of Team Effectiveness in Agile Software Development by Lars Martin Riiser Haraldsen. Its main objective is to investigate:

How does the Scrum methodology facilitate team effectiveness and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

The author defines team effectiveness as a:

[...] measure of a team working together in such a way that the core goals are accomplished within a certain time frame and the team members are satisfied.

The model adopted is based on this paper written by Salas, Sims, and Burke. According to these authors, the core components of teamwork include: team leadership, mutual performance monitoring, backup behavior, adaptability, and team orientation. All of these areas are needed to achieve good team effectiveness, but their implementation can be different from project to project.

I suggest you to give a look at Chapter 5 to see the author's findings in detail.

You will see, for example, that a shared mental model and a common understand of what is needed to be done in the next sprint facilitates teamwork.

It is highlighted that burn-down charts are more than a way to monitor the work progress. They show the work effort of the team together and make developers feel they contribute to the project.

Daily scrum meetings, sprint planning, review, and retrospective are all elements that can facilitate mutual performance monitoring and team orientation.

Effective backup behavior can be ensured by practicing pair programming.

From Chapter 6:

Overall, I have found that Scrum facilitates teamwork and will in most areas increase team effectiveness. [...] the studies also show that when using agile development, such as Scrum, and follow the guidelines correctly, teams are satisfied and productivity improves.

In this blog post by Scott Ambler you can find a comparison among software development paradigms (it is the result of the IT Project Success Survey, run in November and December of 2013).

Some findings include:

  • Agile and Lean strategies are more effective than traditional strategies on average.
  • Ad-hoc project teams (no defined process) and traditional project teams have lower success rates than agile/iterative project teams.
  • There is no common definition of software development success (in terms of time/schedule, ROI, stakeholder value, and quality).
  • Only 8% of respondents indicated that their definition of success included all three of delivering according to schedule, within budget, and to the specification.

Although multiple items from the Agile Manifesto could lead to more high performance teams, I think this one is the most important:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Continuous improvement is one of the ways to understand what works and what doesn't for the team. Finding a good retrospective format (e.g. Scrums retrospective event) should lead to process, communication and technical improvements. When the team is implementing small improvements each iteration, this should eventually lead to a high performance team. Motivated, technically strong and with a minimal process.

You can find my personal preferred retrospective format here.


If you haven't read Dan Pink's Drive, then I suggest watching his YouTube video real quick.

This boils down to Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic motivation and engagement. Following the principles of Agile in your design and development have been linked to improving engagement of the work force (which on average hovers around 30% of your employees).

Another book I'd recommend is Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appello. Goes into a lot more brain sciences around creating happy and engaged teams.

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