Managers: Help your Teams Learn Communication Skills

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Mar 31, 2008 |
The Agile “self organising team” paradigm demands new skills of team members – people skills for which they may once have relied upon their Project Managers. For teams transitioning to self-organisation, management can play an important role in helping them learn new ways to communicate and collaborate. But where to begin? The article Help Your Teams Trade Cubicles for Communication Skills by Agile Queue editor Deborah Hartmann proposes some strategies for imparting new skills, and suggests some sources of helpful material for doing so.

The fact is that Agile raises the bar for interpersonal communication skills. With its emphasis on cross-functional teams and face-to-face communication, which greatly broadens the scope of what’s “relevant” to a developer’s effectiveness at work.
Now, in addition to programming excellence, developers must speak the business jargon of their customers, decipher the body language of their war-room teammates, learn to give constructive feedback, and figure out how to pair-program with diverse personalities. The intensity of Agile work, often attributed to improved throughput, may also come from the increased demand to remain productive while handling complex relationships inside and beyond the team.
This article looks at several approaches to growing these skills - from mentoring key individuals to to letting a more mature team discover gaps incrementally and "pull" the help they need.  When push comes to shove, though, it's easy to discount the importance of building these skills - after all, it's hard to justify take time away from meeting software committments! The author suggests this is an illusion:
if you’ve got a lot to do… can you afford not to improve the personal energy and communication effectiveness of your team members, now? If you really “don’t have time,” ask yourself whether you are in fact managing a Death March project and need to recalibrate.

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A lot of times it is simpler than "interpersonal skills" by Jim Leonardo

I've seen plenty of cases where the issues in play have little to do with interpersonal skills. Skills only come into play when you try to do something. A lot of communication problems arise when people just plain don't even try to communicate.

Image Credit... by Matthew Buckland

As the "Matthew" in question I can confirm that my name hasn't been altered to protect me! Far from it as a Recruiter for ThoughtWorks London and currently Calgary I'm happy for everyone to know who and where I am!


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