Stop These 13 Deal-Breakers in Your Team and See What Happens

Find out what’s hindering your team from becoming truly agile

Alvie Balquin
14 min readOct 7, 2021


Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

You are staring at your screen, shaking your head.

Another delay and your client is angry.

Your team works long hours, but it seems their effort is not enough. Most are exhausted, frustrated, and not happy.

Late delivery.

Low quality.

Unsatisfied client.

You feel the frustrations, too.

You want your team to win, at least.

If indeed Agile works, how on earth did your team get into this mess.

Is there a secret to becoming a successful agile team?

No, there’s none.

Agile has 12 Principles as your guide. Learn and apply these principles to your team.

If you do, your team will be out of your mess.

Provide mentoring.

Don’t delay the success of your team.

You can start by being watchful of the thirteen (13) deal-breaking behaviors in your team.

And, if you observe one, be sure to give guidance.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #1: Push those who wait for the green light

Agility requires initiative.

No one waits for instructions. Instead, the team self-organizes and makes decisions on their own.

So, always empower your team. Otherwise, you won’t achieve the benefits of Agile.

Thus, be watchful for those in need of a push.

Self-organizing teams

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Waits for task assignment.
  • Preference for easy tasks.
  • Dilly-dallying on the task assigned.
  • Hesitancy in making decisions.
  • Ask for help right away, without trying.

How to Manage “Initiative” in Your Culture?

Use tools to improve transparency. For example, you can connect your Jira project and a slack channel for task visibility.

If you observe initiative issues, don’t conclude right away. Attend several Daily Meetings first. Then, confirm with senior members before you take action.

Conduct team mentoring.

If it does not work, then go for a one-on-one. Mentoring takes time, but it pays in the long run.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #2: If they drop the small ball, are you sure they will not drop the big ones?

We don’t sweat the small stuff, we always say.

But sometimes, the minor things could be frustrating.

For example, moving task tickets to the ‘Done’ column is simple. But what happens when a member neglects this?

Photo by Eden Constantino on Unsplash

First, somebody has to check all the tickets in the “On-going” column. Second, it delays the release.

Don’t tolerate neglect of simple responsibilities.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Late in meetings.
  • No reply on chats.
  • Neglect of emails.
  • Do not follow the team’s rules on ticket management.

How to Instill “Responsibility” in your Team Culture?

Involve your team.

Empower your team to create their own set of rules. Then, let them assess their working agreement. In this way, they are responsible for each other’s behavior.

Don’t burden others

Set a chat response time. For example, you may agree to have an 8-hour time window. If it’s urgent, then make a call.

You can also use the Definition of Done (DoD) as a checklist. With simple rules, forgetting things is no longer an excuse.

And, the best way to instill responsibility is to start with yourself.

If you are late, apologize even if your reason is valid. Remind the senior members to do the same. Show the younger ones that small things matter.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #3: Nothing is that difficult unless they make it so

Overthinking is a hindrance to agility.

An overthinker cannot stop thinking. The ideas keep bugging them with no end.

The brain does not stop.

Analysis paralysis causes delivery delays. It is a waste of time. So, be mindful of those who overthink.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Analysis paralysis causes delivery delays. It is a waste of time. So, be mindful of those who overthink.

But, don’t overthink for now; there’s a way to manage this.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Delays in simple tasks.
  • Scope creeping ( adding non-essentials).
  • Answers are not direct to the point.
  • Asking many questions not related to the task.

How to manage “overthinking” in your Team Culture

Simplicity is the antidote to overthinking.

Meaning, solve the core problem first. And, do the nitty-gritty later.

Define urgent tasks and a wishlist.

You can use Acceptance Criteria for every task. The scope helps curb overthinking. And it helps your team focus on what is necessary.

Listen during meetings. If the discussions go beyond the focus, mention it.

Always remind your team that focus is the key to Simplicity.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #4: Not every pitch can be a home run

Agile uses incremental development.

The product evolves until it’s ready for the market. Thus, early crude releases are acceptable.

Photo Credit to Pixabay

And that’s something that some perfectionists struggle to accept.

Perfectionists are detail-conscious. For example, they can’t accept that the UI is not pixel perfect in early releases. They want more in a short time.

Perfectionism will hinder agility if you do not manage it.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Delays in simple tasks;
  • Procrastination;
  • Afraid to make mistakes;
  • Not happy with the small output;
  • Scope creeping ( adding non-essentials).

How to manage “Perfectionism” in your Team Culture?

If you spot perfectionists in your team, appreciate their intention for quality.

Discuss the Working Software Principle of agile.

The idea is to complete small portions of the software at a constant pace. Then, the cycle repeats until the product is ready for market release.

To achieve this, you apply the vertical slicing technique.

We say your team targets the login use case but cannot finish it in a two-week sprint. The realistic vertical slice is the normal login flow, meaning no invalid inputs yet.

For the login example, the valid criteria could be, “ A user can input a valid phone number and a valid password.” If your team delivers that, the sprint is a success.

When you apply vertical slicing, your product won’t be perfect right away.

But, as it evolves, it becomes stable and ready for the market.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #5: Be sure not to burn out your busy bees

Overtime is counterproductive.

We can work extra hours sometimes, but it should not be the norm. Your team is not at peak when they are exhausted.

They are prone to mistakes, too.

Software engineers are fast when their minds are clear.

If you want their best, don’t let them work long hours.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Check out the workaholics in your team. They will not only burn out in the long run but might set precedence.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Overproductivity.
  • Excessive overtime.
  • Do more as if there is no tomorrow.
  • Still happy even after too much overtime.

How to manage “Overworking” in your Team Culture?

Watch out for the achievers in your team.

They tend to work beyond hours. If not managed well, they become workaholics.

Why do workaholics love working?

The small doses of dopamine make them happy.

The cycle continues until they burn out.

What to do?

Pay attention to those who work late.

Remind each other not to overwork. For example, ask about your stress levels during your daily meetings.

Your physical health is vital.

And mental health, too.

Appreciate your team’s effort every day, but they need to know when to call it a day.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #6: No shortcut; you have to do it brick by brick

No doubt, anybody can learn how to code.

But, large systems require Software Engineering practices. Otherwise, things would be in chaos.

Photo by Littlehampton Bricks from Pexels

Late delivery and low quality are recurring issues. And, having shortcuts is not the solution.

Agile needs efficient software engineers, not fast programmers.

Thus, mentor your team with the standard processes and tools.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Codes are not easy to understand
  • Bug fixes have many side effects.
  • Defensive when others give code comments.
  • Preference to work alone.

How to Instill “technical excellence” in your Team Culture?

Apply Software Engineering.

Adhere to industry practices to improve your agility.

Set up tools and follow practices. Apply clean code, design patterns, and Test-Driven Development (TDD), among others. If your code is easy to maintain, you can deliver at a constant pace.

Evolve your process to optimize your performance.

Peer review your codes. It will improve code quality and team collaboration.

So insert short training no matter how busy. For example, a 30-minute clean code discussion would go a long way.

Agility requires a high level of technical excellence. Remember that Agile Methodology is not a substitute for Software Engineering.

The fact is, Software Engineering makes Agile possible.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #7: You can’t teach old dogs new tricks

One pillar of agile is its adaptability.

If your team adapts to change, they will thrive. People come and go, technology changes, and processes evolve.

Be comfortable with change.

If you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, then it’s time for you to ponder.

Photo by Blue Bird from Pexels

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Cannot solve simple problems.
  • Training concepts not applied.
  • Cannot work without the support of others.
  • Not motivated to learn new things.

How to Instill a “Continuous Growth” in your Team Culture?

Develop a value-driven culture.

Don’t focus on changing personalities. Instead, emphasize values. Instill collaboration, commitment, focus, openness, and respect.

Have a regular discussion with your team. Change the idea of performance evaluation to growth assessment and mentoring.

Assess growth in all aspects — technical, relationship with people, process involvement, and overall engagement.

Let everyone own their growth. But make sure that you and the team are there to support and follow-through.

Developing a value-driven culture takes time. So just keep going until agility manifests in your efficiency.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #8: If they don’t believe in themselves, who will?

Self-confidence matters in Agile.

With fast software development, different ideas bring out the best solution. But, if some members don’t speak up, you lose some brilliant ideas.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

To be successful in Agile, be sure to bring out the best ideas on the table. And, don’t let the lack of self-confidence blocks the flow of discussion.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Hesitancy in giving suggestions.
  • Silent most of the time.
  • Fond of “maybe” and “I am not sure.”
  • Stammers during discussions
  • Not comfortable hearing good comments from others.

How to manage “Self-Confidence” in your Team Culture?

The key is to engage all members in your activities — be it meetings, training, or simple discussions.

Take turns in handling the Daily Meetings. The seniors facilitate until the younger ones are ready.

And, never end a meeting until everyone has talked.

Let them conduct training, too. Senior members take charge until others gain confidence. If needed, guide them in creating presentation slides. Or have a dry run before the actual training.

Remember, though, that healthy self-worth is essential. So, instill that a software engineer is way more significant than their codes.

Respect for one’s self begets respect for others.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #9: No blowing of own horns, please

Self-confidence is essential but not a superiority complex.

A true Agile Team respects each other. Nobody thinks that they are better and indispensable.

If there is a display of arrogance, it’s easy to observe this. Your challenge is to watch out for those who do it in subtle ways.

Somebody can throw mindless sarcasm here and there. Until the small blows slowly sink in.

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

And it could affect the confidence of others.

You need to check these behaviors. Otherwise, they will stifle your team’s ability to evolve as an Agile Team.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Sarcasm.
  • Demanding.
  • Impatience when helping others.
  • Do not collaborate well.
  • Vague in giving appreciation; insincere.

How to manage “Superiority” in your Team Culture?

Live your values.

Be consistent in pointing out misaligned behaviors. Ask for support from your senior members in instilling your values.

Be part of every communication channel. Observe the choice of words. If you work remotely, being polite and friendly is crucial.

Do not allow sarcasm. Instead, encourage being direct but still polite.

Managing a superiority complex is a challenge. You will need patience.

But, no matter how hard, do something to manage it.

Remember, when you provide psychological safety, your Agile Team can perform efficiently.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #10: Washing of hands does not keep an Agile Team safe

Wash hands to get rid of the virus, but not when you work in an Agile Team.

Transparency is necessary to cope with the fast delivery of Agile. Thus, if someone is hiding an issue, that could affect your progress.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Admitting mistakes is not easy, but it pays. With a culture of trust, your team would feel psychologically safe.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Late in reporting issues.
  • Blame others.
  • Do not own up to obvious mistakes.
  • Defensive when something is wrong.

How to instill “Admitting Mistakes” in your Team Culture?

Making mistakes is normal in software development.

Expect that there will be big blunders. Accept and prepare for them.

Set up tools and processes. For example, have a backup in case a new member accidentally deletes your database.

When somebody owns up to their mistake, commend the honesty. Don’t nag or reprimand. Instead, explain that making mistakes is part of learning.

Be consistent in handling mistakes in your team. The focus is on the issue and not on the person. Train your seniors to do the same until the idea sinks in your culture.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #11: Spray out the ‘gossip virus.’

Some gossips are petty, but others are not.

Nonsense ones are easy to let go of. But not the ones that impact a character.

Yes, character assassination destroys people.

Spreading unfair gossip breaks the trust in your team. Thus, you better do something before it’s too late.

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Bad Mouthing others.
  • Meddle in the personal lives of others.
  • Share confidentialities with the phrase “it’s between us….”
  • Spreading something about someone ( even if it’s unconfirmed).

How to manage “Gossip Mongers” in your Team Culture?

Build trust and respect.

Your team must know boundaries. For example, if a member is unwilling to share something personal, the team must respect it.

If there’s trust, whatever one says is not taken against them.


That’s empathy.

If someone scales up an issue, don’t act right away. Instead, it’s better if your team finds a way to resolve a problem on their own.

Let your team stop gossiping. When tolerated, it becomes part of your culture.

Everyone needs to protect the culture you are building.

If your team worries less about being judged, they could give their best every day.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #12: If they don’t pick each other’s brains, what else are they doing

Two heads are better than one, a cliche but quite crucial in Agile.

Independent and collaborative.

That’s what an Agile Team is.

Each member does not only focus on their tasks. They also support others in the team.

When there’s a problem, members rally together.

Agile is not a sink and swim methodology

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Not asking for help from others.
  • Not willing to help others.
  • Silence during meetings.
  • Not engaging in discussions even on familiar topics.

How to instill “Collaboration” in your Team Culture?

Develop trust and self-confidence.

Anyone can ask questions without fear of judgment. For example, let junior members explore a problem for 4 hours. After that, they can ask for help.

Suppose your work is remote; work online together. Open Google Meet while working so anybody can ask for support anytime.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

During Daily Meetings, let the members exchange questions. Seniors allow others to answer first, then fill in whatever is lacking.

With collaboration, you can also develop initiative and self-confidence.

Becoming self-organizing also means being collaborative. And, you will only achieve it if you manage the other deal-breakers mentioned above.

Agile Team Deal-Breaker #13: Birds of the different feathers cannot fly high together

In teamwork, we often hear eagles as an analogy.

Your team could take lessons from the eagles. The eagle’s vision is precise. And, they fly high, supporting each other.

Do the same with your team. Instill that you can only achieve your Product Vision when you support each other.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Then, always be on the lookout for those who weaken your team.

Some Signs to Watch Out:

  • Lack of trust.
  • The “don’t care” attitude.
  • Violations of simple team rules.
  • Too much dependence on others.
  • Lack of willingness to learn more.

How to Instill “teamwork” in your Team Culture?

Define your culture.

If you happen to build a team from scratch, you have an advantage. Envision your team’s culture early on. And, with that culture vision, you define your team values.

In summary, you need to develop a team with an agile mindset:

  • Self-organizing;
  • Continuously learning;
  • Constantly reflecting and improving;
  • With technical excellence.

And, don’t mentor alone.

Share the responsibility with management and key technical people.

Lead the way to a better agility

Recurring software delivery delays and low quality is frustrating.

Most Agile Teams are overworked, frustrated, and not happy. And, while others accept it as the nature of the job, you now know better.

Learn from the tips above. Then, observe which of the deal-breakers are in your team. And, always remember to use the 12 Agile Principles as your guide.

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash




Building a performing Agile Team is a journey for you and your team. It won’t happen overnight.

Don’t be in a hurry.

Experience the joy of the agile journey.

Agile mindset

As a result, there is trust and courage to become self-organizing.

You won’t dread talking to your client anymore. Instead, you will hear them saying good things about your team.

Start improving your agility now. The journey is not as difficult as you think.

Just do it the agile way.

Thank you for reading.

If you are currently having some problems with your Agile implementation and you need some help, you may contact me on Linkedin and let’s talk.



Alvie Balquin

Agile Practitioner * 20+ years in software management * Technical trainer * Always a teacher by heart.