Steps in effective agile team building – Part 1

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This blog post is the first in a series on effective agile team building. It focuses on the first two of seven practical steps you need to take, as a leader, as a coach, or as a Scrum Master to create highly effective teams: setting objectives and selecting the right people.

In a highly effective team you will notice a certain “flow” in the way team members interact and a clear drive in their actions. Communication is fluent, there is laughter and fun and there are constructive discussions. The team members feel the responsibility for their goals and take pro-active actions to achieve them. They define their own path and their own way of working and obtain a certain level of autonomy. In order to enable this specific team culture, management needs to take on a certain style of leadership, called transformational leadership. The concept of transformational leadership started with James V. Downton in 1973 and was expanded by James Burns in 1978 (Burns, 2003).

A transformational leader:

  1. Is a visionary. He or she has a clear concept of where the organization is going and where it should be in five (or two or three) years.
  2. Is inspirational in his or her communication. The leader communicates in a way that inspires and motivates, even in an uncertain or changing environment.
  3. Provides intellectual stimulation. The leader challenges followers to think about problems in new ways.
  4. Provides supportive leadership. Demonstrates care and consideration of followers’ personal needs and feelings. However, a leader can sometimes be tough and harsh. It’s not always fun and games. When needed tough decisions are made and tough words will be said. When people perceive these decisions as fair and see that leadership truly cares about them, decisions will be accepted with less resistance.
  5. Expresses personal recognition. Praises and acknowledges achievement of goals and improvements in work quality; personally compliments others when they do outstanding work. They praise the teams publicly.

There are logical steps that can be taken in helping the team grow. The steps described in this article are loosely based on Bruce Tuckman’s theory, which defines the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Although the Tuckman stages seem sequential, this is actually not the case. Teams are usually dynamic, not only in the sense that people join and leave the team, but also that they improve and have setbacks. The team will sometimes revert to the “forming” activities or review their original agreements. A team is like a marriage; you have to learn to live with each other and find ways to achieve common goals. One characteristic of working in a team is that things are not always as you want them, and conflicts sometimes arise. Like a marriage, you have to learn to give and take.

Team building can be divided into seven stages, the first two of which are:

1.Set the objectives:

  • What is it that we want to achieve?
  • Why do we need to create this team?
  • What is the team’s purpose?

2.Select the right people for the team:

Not only the very best, the seniors and the gurus, but most importantly, select the people with the right mindset and growth potential. A team of only top players is often not successful.

The right mindset is:

  • I am willing to cooperate with the other team members
  • Team success is more important than my own success
  • I am willing to work hard
  • I show courage
  • I want to learn.

In my next post, I will focus on the third and fourth stages of team building, forming and storming. In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear your comments. Contact me here.

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