High-performance teams are the Formula Ones of cooperation. Systemic leadership, teambuilding and coaching are key elements for a successful implementation of the agile software development framework named Scrum. Implementation of Scrum is more than just changing working procedures; it can also compete head to head with the traditional management role and business rules.
This article (originally published on the Scrum Alliance homepage), describes how you as the leader can support and develop your team by considering your own role in light of the team’s stage of development.
One of the cornerstones of Scrum is the self-organizing team that is able to make decisions about the target to which it has committed. But why is team organization so important when we are talking about development organizations?
One answer may be the principle of synergy which says that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This means, for example, that a well trained Formula One team - capable of changing tires and filling a gas tank in seconds - achieves more than its members if they were working individually. We say that high-performance teams are the Formula Ones of cooperation.
Another answer may be the increasing complexity of developing software solutions. Controlling the chaos and complexity calls for an overview and a variety of skills that individuals do not possess by themselves. To achieve success, teams must be organized.
Working groups, i.e. groups of people who cooperate to solve their individual tasks, can be an efficient way to organize if you have a formal hierarchical organization. But this is limited by the fact that the highest level of performance is the sum of the capability of the individuals. Teams, however, can double this many times over.
In my work implementing Scrum, I have largely addressed how to form groups of individualists into cohesive teams, where the members support each other and make use of each others' strengths. Three main factors come into play in the shaping of a high-performance team: team structure, team relations, and the team's processing capability. These are briefly presented in Figure 1.
|Team Structure||Team Relations||Processing Capability|
Figure 1: Highlights of forming an efficient team.
Let’s look at some of the challenges to overcome:
- Inefficient decision-making
- Not taking responsibility for others’ results
When a person’s effort is combined with others, he tends not to work as hard as he would if his individual effort was measurable. As part of a group, he is more laid back. It’s a human habit, so the solution is not to single out the free-riders and punish them, but rather motivate and build up the team identity.
Free-riding does not explain why some groups are extremely inefficient in making decisions. Even though we think of groups as being reasonable and logical, they are heavily influenced by the hierarchy in the organization. Managers tend to influence decisions, regardless if their points of view are right or wrong. In the same manner, dominating persons can influence group opinions. As an example: Court jury investigations have shown that the members who are the most talkative are the ones who mostly influence the verdicts. Research shows that, in general, performance in working groups is approximately 75% as efficient as the sum of the possibilities of the individual persons.
In general, the quality of the decisions made by groups is better than the average of the individual decisions, but often worse than the decisions made by the most brilliant persons in the groups. I guess we all know about the silent genius who is sitting quietly in the corner with the best idea for the solution who remains silent.
Not taking responsibility for others’ results
When teams are chosen as the way to organize, the people involved must commit to taking the risk of internal conflicts, working closely together and making decisions in consensus. Team members must put some of the responsibility for their own personal success in the hands of their teammates. The manager must show confidence and trust that the team will make the best decisions even if not fully aligned with the manager’s point of view.