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Agile Teams as Cohesive Communities

by Shane Hastie on Jun 12, 2010 |

Agile projects are (should be?) highly collaborative team environments built on a foundation of trust and communication.  Such collaborative environments don’t just happen, and they can be easily disrupted.   There are many commentators who provide advice on how to establish and maintain collaborative teams.  Here we look at what three of them have to say:

Create a Healthy Community

Chris Corrigan describes himself as “process artist, a teacher and a facilitator of social technologies for face to face conversation in the service of emergence” in a recent blog post he talks about Meg Wheatley’s 12 principles for supporting healthy community :

  1. People support what they create
  2. People act most responsibly when they care
  3. Conversation is the way that humans have always thought together.  In conversation we discover shared meaning
  4. To change the conversation, change who is in the conversation
  5. Expect leadership to come from anywhere
  6. Focus on what’s working, ask what’s possible, not what’s wrong
  7. Wisdom resides within us
  8. Everything is a failure in the middle, change occurs in cycle
  9. Learning is the only way we become smarter about what we do
  10. Meaningful work is a powerful human motivator
  11. Humans can handle anything as long as we’re together
  12. Generosity, forgiveness and love.  These are the most important elements in a community

 Coherence Builds Communities

Johanna Zweig & César Idrovo wrote a series of articles about Group Coherence and how coherent teams can achieve Hyper-Productivity

They found five key characteristics that come together in coherent groups:

• Relationship between Individual and Shared Creativity: individual creativity contributing to group creativity.
In coherent groups creativity of individuals can be freely expressed and included in the group's self-organization. Agile methods naturally promote this key ingredient by providing a developer with the structured process to work with colleagues to develop features. Close collaboration with business users, application architects and technical specialists reflects the self-organization of all contributors.

• State Shift: change in energetic level (like water to steam or water to ice)
Subsequent to state shift, a felt phenomenon, individuals in a coherent Agile group can identify each other's complementary skills without management, visual or auditory clues. Their level of comfort and trust in the group increases.

• Bonded State: group members bonded but everyone had bonded when Group Coherence occurred.
Feeling of safety in the group and openness of expression allowing instances of unknown to be accepted so the group's self-organizing energy is available to find solutions. Social events serve as extensions of work collaborations.

• Fugue: accelerated interaction of the group members' activity and interactions producing great increases in group energy.
Interpersonal exchanges in group discussion quicken; people finish each other's sentences and actions; excited creative expression of individuals are part of the interaction of the group.

• Perception of Group Coherence: awareness of Group Coherence.
Trust in group leadership and fugue responses; awareness that something energetic occurred; fun in addressing challenges together.

Meaningful Goals Motivate Teams

 

In a similar vein Steve Denning discusses the importance of crafting meaningful and compelling goals, and how these motivate individuals and teams to become more effective in what they do.  He says:

    • The meaning of work isn’t in the bread that we’re baking: it’s in the enjoyment the customers get from eating the bread.
    • The meaning of work isn’t in the words the actor is reciting; it’s in the response of the audience to those words.
    • The meaning of work isn’t in the toy that we’re putting together; it’s in the smile on the face of the child.
    • The meaning of work isn’t in the bricks and mortar of the house we’re building; it’s in the happiness we generate in a family with a house that precisely meets their needs.
    • The meaning of work isn’t in the words or the musical notes of the song that we’re writing; it’s in the feeling of yearning we generate in the heart of the listener.
    • The meaning of work isn’t in the paper and print of the insurance policy we’ve issued; it’s in the security that we’re providing to the spouse and the children.
    • The meaning of the boutique hotel that we’re running isn’t in the rooms and the physical facilities; it’s in the feeling of being at home away from home that we generate in people who stay there.
    • The meaning of the software we’re coding doesn’t lie in bits and bytes; it’s in the cool things that users can do with the software.
    • The meaning that we see in work resides in the responses of the people for whom we are doing the work.
       

 Set goals that clearly state the value of the work being done for the customers of the work.


 How do you set compelling goals that lead to your team’s cohesiveness and hyper-productivity? 

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Meaningful Work as Motivator by Dan Mezick

Thanks for this article on meaningful work, team cohesion, etc. This week I visit ZAPPOS in Henderson NV and take a tour. What a great trip and what a learning experience about culture at the team and organizational level. Authorization is essential. ZAPPOS people are strongly encouraged ("authorized") to act on 10 core ZAPPOS values. They do not need to ask permission (ask to be authorized)....

Those interested in this topic may find my post on agile team authorization to be of some interest:

***********
Teams must be authorized to create team culture. They must be 100% free to invent, create, manifest and work inside their own special, unique, meaningful, largely self-determined team culture.

Ground rules set the stage for culture. All else follows. If the ground rules prevent teams from creating culture that is all theirs, then the team is dependent on outside authority and that team can never reach the hyper-productive state.
*********

See:
www.newtechusa.com/agileboston/notes/zombieteam...

Dan Mezick
www.newtechusa.com/agileboston/DanMezick.htm

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