Team or Group
The terms “team” and “group” are quite often mixed up. It is not uncommon for a bunch of individuals to be huddled together (they might even be moved to sit next to each other in the same area) and be told that now they are a team so from this point on management expects miraculous results from them. But those miracles never come. Because there is more to forming a team from a group of people than just that.
You will also need:
• A common goal. A baker, a painter and a high scaler will never form a team. All three of them are doing valuable and important work but they cannot support each other as they have no common goal. They might get along well, but they will never be a team. They lack the common task, the common mission.
• Clear limits and boundaries. Self-organisation is a hot topic in agile, but it has its inherent dangers. Without clear boundaries, self-organisation will lead to chaos. The team needs to know in which cases they are empowered to make decisions. They also need to know the processes with which they can interact with the rest of the organisation. The simplest example of that is the definition of core hours, that is clear regulations about the timeframe where employees are expected to be on site.
• Authority. The team has to have the right to make decisions inside the boundaries discussed above. An obvious example is task assignments in Scrum. The team uses the daily standup to discuss who will perform which tasks. Nobody, besides the team itself has a say in that topic.
• Stability. A frequently changing group will never become a team. People need time to get to know each other both in the human and professional sense. They need time to meld, to learn how to work together, to formulate their very own ways of working, their very own professional lingo. Each time someone joins or leaves the group, this progression restarts.
Here are a couple of tricks besides the above terms that might help in forming a team.
• Identity. Most groups chose a team name for a reason as this strengthens group cohesion by making a distinction between “us” and “them”.
• Physical environment. Besides providing information, the many low-tech visualisation tools (information radiator, story map, printed charts) so common in an agile environment make the team feel at home at their unique workplace.
• Common resources. These are resources committed to the team, provided with full responsibility to manage and assign them as they see fit. Just like physical environment, it creates a sense of “ours”, a sense of joint ownership.
• Values. Not just marketing slogans and bullcrap, but real shared values which help team members blend through common understanding.