Necessary Conditions for a Team

At the Lean Agile Open (an Open Space event) last Friday, October 19th, I was having lunch with Gwen Kestin(a great coach at Vanguard) and others.

Gwen was talking about the necessary conditions for a Team before you start coaching them.  She mentioned someone who had come up with a list of about 6 conditions.  I am about to ask her for that name and that list again.

But, to entertain and to educate ourselves, let us come up with our own list.  Quickly.

  • It must be a real Team. (Hmm, that begs for a definition, but you’ll know it when you see it.)
  • The Team has something real and important to do.  And they buy in to that mission (or purpose or vision or goal).
  • The Team has “the right stuff” to be successful.  The main thing we usually say is that they have the right skill sets to be successful with this work.  It is really more than that.
  • The Team does not have any crazy bad impediments — some thing or things that just about assure failure.  Hurrican Michael, if you are in Mexico Beach, comes to mind.  Takeuchi and Nonaka might say that the team has the autonomy (enough) to mostly self-organize — and that autonomy is not, and will not be, severely restricted.  I like to ask the Team (more than once): do you think you are set up fro success? (The phrasing above suggests the question should be: do you think you are set up for failure?)
  • There is a slightly ridiculous deadline.  I love that phrase.  It is from a list by IDEO.  This is key because it creates urgency, and it usually means other important things, or causes other things to happen. For example, it makes the Team members realize that they must figure out how to help each other.
  • The Team has a way of getting some help, that is from outside the Team.  Perhaps from managers or others.
  • The Team wants to improve. One could say this attitude happens only because of the preceding things, but I think it is an important attitudinal pre-condition. I think almost all people have it, to some degree.  Some Teams have it more, or develop it more.

If these conditions are there, is the Team now likely to be successful?

Only if these conditions are there, does coaching (of the Team) at least have a chance of being useful?

If these conditions are there, the chances of failure have reduced significantly?

Are these the bare necessities to start?

Or, like 12 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, is this at least a good start?



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