Tiger Teams for Agile Troubleshooting: Solve Critical Problems Swiftly with a Dedicated Tiger Team

Tiger Teams for Agile Troubleshooting: Solve Critical Problems Swiftly with a Dedicated Tiger Team

Nimble adaptation lies at the root of Agile development work. But however Agile an organization is, situations will arise that the established teams can’t handle on their own. In these cases, you might need to assemble a tiger team.

Companies form tiger teams to solve critical problems that require the focused attention of an expert panel. Cross-functional tiger teams explore the problem from every angle to determine its root causes and implement bold solutions.

Whiteboards’ visual collaboration tools support tiger teams to pool their expertise to address critical issues quickly. Video chat, clarify your team goal, make a plan, and discover innovative solutions together. Communicate asynchronously between meetings by commenting on whiteboard issues to ask questions or notify the team of new developments. 

Document all your work on a dedicated tiger team whiteboard to keep the process organized. Create presentations and demos to communicate your progress and findings to other stakeholders. Choose from a vast library of templates that all integrate deeply with Jira. Create, import, and update Jira issues on the whiteboard, and all changes sync in Jira instantly. 

Try Whiteboards for free today, and keep reading to learn about tiger teams: what they are, when to form one, and how to set them up for success.

All About Tiger Teams

What is a tiger team?

A tiger team is a hand-picked group of employees that’s tasked with solving an identified critical problem within an organization. The team is composed of cross-functional experts who jointly possess the skills and experience to track down the root of the problem. A company might form a tiger team in response to:

  • a failing project that needs to be turned around quickly to prevent disaster
  • an ongoing systemic issue that is causing harm to the company (or will soon)
  • a significant emergent problem that can’t be handled by the systems in place
  • a practice or system that requires substantial overhaul by a team of specialists

The tiger team is empowered to function autonomously to tackle the problem from every angle, and then take swift and decisive action based on their findings.

Why are they called tiger teams?

Special task forces have long existed, but the term “tiger team” emerged in the 1960s. A 1964 paper on aerospace development notably described tiger team members as “undomesticated and uninhibited technical specialists” and compared their expert problem solving to the relentless tracking down of prey. 

The term often referred to elite teams in the fields of security systems testing, military combat operations, and aerospace engineering. It has more recently expanded to include specialized teams in civilian business settings. Whatever the context, the common thread is that a tiger team is swift, decisive, highly skilled, deeply cross-functional, and narrowly focused on a mission that’s critical to the organization.

How is a tiger team different from an Agile team? 

Tiger teams follow an Agile approach in the sense that they’re nimble, self-organizing, and cross-functional. In a traditional business, the tiger team operates as a relatively Agile task force within a management structure that doesn’t normally utilize deep collaboration across departments.

By contrast, when an Agile company forms a tiger team, it’s because a problem has arisen that requires a different type of cross-functional team than currently exists. In an Agile workplace, a tiger team differs from the other teams in several key ways:

  • Its mission is narrow. The tiger team is assembled to solve a single identified problem that falls outside the scope of everyday business. Usually this is because the issue at hand is both urgent and requires a hand-picked blend of work skills and subject matter expertise.
  • The team itself is temporary. Tiger teams perform a single mission with a clear end point. A company might bring back the same team down the road if similar skills and expertise are needed to address a new problem. In any case, tiger teams exist on an as-needed basis.
  • Tiger teams address critical situations. The team might form in response to an ongoing crisis, but this isn’t always the case. Organizations also assemble tiger teams to rectify a situation quickly before it causes serious problems. Either way, the problem is deemed critical and the team is laser-focused on addressing it with urgency.

When should a company form a tiger team?

Imagine a tiger team as the superheroes in Marvel’s Avengers or the casino hackers in Ocean’s Eleven. The team assembles when there’s a clear, important mission, and each person is critical to the mission’s success.

Fortunately, you’re not saving the universe from a stolen energy cube or pulling off a multi-million dollar casino heist. But you might consider forming a tiger team when all of the following apply:

  • You have a critical business problem requiring swift resolution.
  • You can articulate a mission with a clear scope and finish line.
  • The mission requires a dedicated cross-functional team to execute it.
  • A team with the proper expertise and resources does not already exist.
  • The problem is critical enough to warrant resourcing the tiger team’s mission.

Who should be on a tiger team?

The tiger team’s composition depends entirely on the problem at hand. For instance, let’s say there’s a sudden customer drift away from the company’s cornerstone product. Early indicators include a jumble of issues related to customer service, product performance, rising competition, and some negative media publicity. 

The company might assemble a team that includes the Product Owner along with key specialists in design, QA, customer support, marketing, and public relations. Their mission is to pinpoint the key factors driving users away, including how different problems may be compounding each other, then create and oversee a plan to turn things around.

Whatever the problem to be solved is, ideal tiger team members will have:

  • subject matter expertise aligned with a key aspect of the issue at hand
  • deep familiarity with the company’s operations (think senior employees)
  • excellent cross-functional collaboration and critical reasoning skills
  • high motivation for problem solving and the ability to be decisive under pressure

The objective is to assemble mature experts with a targeted range of experience and skills while also keeping the team small enough to stay nimble. A tiger team is a lean task force built for action, so don’t weigh it down with people who don’t need to be there. Three to six members is a good range.

Tiger teams on the ground

Once you assemble a tiger team, set them up to execute their mission effectively.

How does the organization support the team?

Successful tiger teams have the organization entirely behind them. Be sure both the team and the company at large are prepared for the team’s mission.


Tiger team members typically still work in their normal roles outside of the tiger team project. Barring imminent catastrophe, this shouldn’t mean working overtime. You don’t want your top experts burning out. 

Depending on the mission’s scope, your tiger team will be absent from regular work at certain hours of the day or even whole days of the week. Make thoughtful provisions to prevent the new project from overloading your tiger team and your regular Agile teams.


Ask your tiger team if they need additional tools for their process. Since their mission is exploratory, they may or may not know yet what tools they’ll need. Discuss finances transparently and plan to fast-track budget approvals for the team as needs arise.


While an invitation to be on a tiger team may be flattering, compliments don’t pay the bills. Don’t ask your best workers to take on critical responsibilities just for the glory of it. Reward team participation in concrete ways that respect the services your experts are providing.

Outside help

Despite their impressive collective skill set, the tiger team may face a problem that demands additional expertise. A smart team knows when to ask for help, so be sure they have the resources to bring in necessary subject matter experts quickly.


Agile companies operate on a foundation of mutual respect that rejects micromanagement. The company respects its teams’ abilities to self-organize to complete projects, and team members respect each other as competent professionals who can work autonomously on day-to-day tasks.

Tiger teams deserve the same respect, and they may need additional clearance to make critical decisions outside the scope of normal operations. Give the team as much autonomy as possible and actively work to remove any impediments to their ability to operate swiftly and decisively. If you trust them enough to tackle your toughest problems, demonstrate this by empowering them to follow through as necessary to accomplish their goal.

How does a tiger team approach their mission?

Here are some team process tips, including helpful Whiteboards tools tiger teams can use to launch an effective exploratory mission:

1. Write a mission statement.

The tiger team and the company need to be crystal clear on what the team will be doing. Create a statement establishing the scope of your mission, your ultimate goal, and how you’ll know when you’ve reached that goal. Prevent team member misalignment, scope creep, and wasted effort by clarifying the mission in concrete terms.

Use the SMART Goals template to write a team goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded. Identify expected milestones and hard deadlines, then confirm your plan with all relevant stakeholders. 

SMART Goals template on Whiteboards.io
SMART Goals template on Whiteboards.io

2. Establish roles and responsibilities.

Any newly assembled team needs to discuss the division of labor, but it’s tempting to gloss over this when you have an elite team of cross-functional experts. To some degree, you can each expect to fall into certain roles based on your expertise. But there are also personalities, preferences, and non-obvious skill sets to consider when deciding who’s best suited to do what.

Use the RACI Chart template to map out your tiger team roles and responsibilities. Spend time learning what each person brings to the table. Be transparent about your strengths, weaknesses, and the work tasks you enjoy and dislike doing. Divvy up responsibilities to capitalize on unique skills and passions.

RACI Chart template on Whiteboards.io
RACI Chart template on Whiteboards.io

3. Create a communication plan.

Next, plan how team members will communicate with each other and with any relevant stakeholders outside the team. Establish a team meeting schedule and decide how members will exchange information between meetings. 

Create a dedicated team whiteboard to store your templates, meeting notes, and other documentation for quick reference. Leave comments on the whiteboard and mention teammates to notify them of post-meeting ideas or your personal progress on the project.

If you’ll need to be in contact with a substantial number of non-team stakeholders during the tiger team project, the Stakeholders Analysis template can help you make a plan to manage those communications.

Stakeholders Analysis template on Whiteboards.io
Stakeholders Analysis template on Whiteboards.io

4. Start tracking down the root of the problem.

With your goals, responsibilities, and communication plan nailed down, you’re ready to begin tackling your problem’s possible root causes. Start your troubleshooting work off right with the Fishbone Diagram template. Brainstorm every avenue that might be contributing to the issue you’re working to resolve.

Fishbone Diagram template on Whiteboards.io
Fishbone Diagram template on Whiteboards.io

Dissect your proposals further to establish theories of deeper root causes. Identify how you will explore these theories through further testing, research, or communication with various stakeholders. Decide who will pursue which avenues, and assign these tasks by converting virtual sticky notes to Jira issues. Native two-way integration keeps Whiteboards and Jira up-to-date at all times.

Leave your first tiger team meeting with a targeted plan. Update team members on your progress between meetings by leaving comments on your assigned section of the fishbone diagram. Reassemble regularly to track down the root of the problem together.

Support your Agile teams and tiger teams and collaborate better with a free Whiteboards trial. Solve tough issues collaboratively on customizable Jira-synced templates that support swift action and drive business success.