In training sessions, we normally focus on the team in a single separate session over multiday courses. This is not enough for anyone to get deep insights into the theory and practice of improving teams.
What Defines a Great Team?
- A group of people linked in a common purpose for conducting complex tasks alongside many interdependent tasks. The team should be a team and not a group.
- A team performs activities that ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. The team must be high-performing.
- A team acts on its own authority, thus being able to overcome any sense of powerlessness and lack of influence and to recognize and eventually use available resources and chances. The team must be empowered.
A Great Team is an Empowered, High-Performance Team
For me, the definition of a great team matches the theoretical definition of an empowered, high-performance team. To substantiate this, let’s start by trawling through relevant knowledge to figure out what’s meant by the words empowered, high-performance team by looking at their definitions.
Empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. Empowerment refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to the professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence and to recognize and eventually to use their resources and chances.
Performance management includes activities that ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. Performance management can focus on the performance of an organization, a department, employee, or even the processes to build a product or service, as well as many other areas.
A team is a group of people (or other animals) linked to a common purpose. Human teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks. A group does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort that allows each member to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Are You Part of a Great Team?
Take This Quiz
Take this quick quiz to see how great your team is on my greatness scale. You should answer with “yes” or “no” to each. The more “yes” answers you have, the greater the team you are.
- The team has been stable for a minimum of 6 months.
Instability causes variations in team performance.
- Team members are 100% allocated to one team.
Being on multiple teams causes context changes and a lack of continuous focus in work.
- The team has 7 members, +/-2.
Too many members on a team introduce the need for additional coordination and administrative overhead, just as too few members mean a reduction in team spirit.
- The team is colocated.
Sitting in the same location, in the same office, as your team members have proven to be positive for team spirit and motivation.
- The team is disciplined and follows agreed principles.
Whether you follow formal rules or intrinsic principles is irrelevant as long as you all know how to react in a given situation and how others would react.
- The team has an explicit shared purpose and common goals.
A group has a variety of individual goals.
- The team has been provided with a clear (product) vision.
Not knowing why you are paid to do work is not motivating.
- The team has a clear framework of empowerment.
Enable the team to make swift decisions by setting ground rules for what they can decide and what is outside their control zone.
- The team is responsible from idea to product.
Being a phase in the development of a new product instead of “full-stack” from idea to final delivery reduces motivation in a team.
- The team is not micromanaged but acknowledges deadlines and fulfills goals.
A team is self-organized and able to act and plan within agreed scope and deadlines.
- The team is able to work with focus, and with few dependencies on other teams.
The team is able to “get in the zone” and complete their part of a task independently and without interruptions.
- Requests to the team are presented as “used needs” (why) and not “software solutions” (what).
The team is seen as the highest power of knowledge on the systems and only they can design software solutions.
- Team performance is recognized and rewarded.
Are releases celebrated? Do team members recognize each other for their results, skills, and collaboration?
- The team is cross-functional and eager to learn new competencies to aid the team in reaching its goals.
Are team members locked into boxed roles and thus introduce bottlenecks? Do both developers, testers, UX’ers work together from start to finish on a task?
- The team has been stable for a minimum of 6 months.
Co-owner of BuildingBetterSoftware
Agile Coach and Trainer
Rasmus Kaae is working world wide as an agile coach, mentor, presenter, facilitator and trainer. As a certified Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner and Scrum Professional, Rasmus is dedicated to bring Scrum and agility into organisations by having a full stack end-to-end and top-to-bottom approach. He is a member of the national board of Round Table Denmark, and primary driver of an internal agile community in Danske Bank.
You can find more of his writing at agilerasmus.com.
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