Resilience tips for agile teams

According to the agile manifesto it should be woven into a teams mentality to welcome change, but sometimes it is hard to handle.

We understand that agility makes for a better product in the long run, but too much rapid change or uncertainty can be exhausting - especially on those inescapable, extra challenging projects that are an inevitable part of our business.

After all, we all invest so much of ourselves into making something great it can be tricky to keep on pivoting without it affecting you personally.

The secret to staying responsive under stress is resilience. While it might be one of the biggest buzzwords in business the concept of increased endurance and better recovery is not new - but, what can it do for you?


What can resilience do for you?

Resilience has proven to improve job satisfaction, help prevent burn out, create happier work environments and boost productivity. People with higher resilience have a greater sense of wellbeing and enjoy better health.

The US army has even been running a comprehensive resilience training programme for all recruits, regardless of rank or seniority, for over a decade! 10 years worth of data across 1.1. million people (where testing situations are more common) shows soldiers are physically and mentally fitter, struggle less with PTSD or stress, and enjoy more fulfilling family lives as a result of the training.


What is resilience exactly?

According to the Godfather of positive psychology, Prof. Martin Seligman, resilience and wellbeing isn’t about eliminating difficulty, but making sure there are enough positive experiences to balance the negative. He advocates the PERMA model and we think it can not only be applied to life, but challenging agile environments too.

PERMA is a framework for boosting your happiness and your wellbeing, so you can handle just about anything.

P - Positive emotion: Does what you’re doing make you feel good?

E - Engagement: Do you feel excited about what you’re doing and in the flow?

R - Relationships: Do you have good connections with those around you?

M - Meaning: Can you find a sense of purpose in your activity?

A - Accomplishment: Can you find a sense of achievement in what you’re doing?

Some people seem to be born tougher, but for most of us resilience needs to be cultivated and learned. So how can you boost and build resilience within agile teams to ensure they don’t falter when they need to be flexible?


Resilience boosting tips for agile teams
Have fun

If you’re not enjoying yourself, it impacts your performance and productivity. If you work hard, play hard, but don’t reserve the play for after hours. Instead, find ways of bringing fun into your everyday interactions, maintain a positive attitude and make meetings something people want to attend by offering drinks, snacks and light entertainment from time to time.

Meet your motivation

Consider what makes you feel energised about a project. It could be working with a new technology, tackling a particularly challenging brief, crunching impossible deadlines, the connection you have with your project team or the clients business itself… what motivates and gives you meaning will always be personal, so find your passion and let it drive you during times of challenge.

Manage change

While agile is intended to allow a project evolve, that doesn’t mean you should accommodate open ended changes at any moment. Manage change, rather than just letting it happen, by building in clear gateways and designated choice points when you can respond to developments deliberately. Set clear boundaries and expectations, and make sure everyone knows the rules of the game.

Empower people

Keep teams engaged by giving members the respect, trust and ownership they deserve. Make sure they feel supported but encourage autonomy and independence.


Cultivate a learning culture where challenge is just a chance to grow. Stay curious, solutions focused and don’t be afraid to fail. Set-backs only reveal how to do things differently!

Celebrate your success and your struggles too

Acknowledge achievements, even if that’s overcoming adversity.

Plan, but not too much

Commit to a plan, but always be prepared to go off-piste. No plan at all can lead to project pandemonium, but over-planning and being unable to adapt also causes pain. Be sure to aim for a balance between the two.

Be kind to one another

Take care of your colleagues. Having happy, healthy relationships with your project buddies not only makes for a more enjoyable work environment, but helps people pull together when the going gets tough too. Certain relationships might take more work or naturally involve more conflict of interest, but kindness means connection and positive interactions increase resilience.

Remember, no two projects will ever be exactly the same but ensuring teams are well equipped to deal with change and challenge gives them the power to turn obstacles into awesome opportunities.

Further reading 📖



The Navy Seals guide to developing mental toughness