What’s a team?

Let’s review what is a team in Agile or Scrum.

A small group — seven plus or minus two — motivated by the vision of one person that will realize good Business Value; dedicated (usually 100%… certainly a lot), with almost all the skills needed to realize the vision; that works together daily.

A team is not:

  • Lots more people than that (that’s a collection of people).
  • Motivated by multiple visions (if there is some similarity in the work, that might be a department).
  • Following multiple people (that would be confusion).
  • Some folks who work together, part-time, from time to time.

We give a team a mission, and we expect them to figure out how to deliver it.

For an interesting discussion, how small teams work in warfare, see Maneuver warfare.

Why are teams important?

This may seem obvious to many of you, however, based on what I see, it seems necessary to review.

  1. No simple problems. We now need a team to figure out almost any problem, because the problems are all complicated. We need knowledge from multiple people.
  2. Creating knowledge. The team is the unit that creates the real knowledge (yes, people as individuals can contribute, too). The team converts tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. They brainstorm. They convert ideas to something more real, and examine whether they are achieving the vision.
  3. Has “it.” I can’t describe everything that makes a winning team. One day knowledge. One day skill. One day motivation. Every day something different. They get it done.
  4. Motivation. Creating something brand new is hard work. The team members need to motivate each other, reassure each other, support each other, to get past all the problems and issues. The team has to find its heart. Once it has it (the heart), you can let the team run.
  5. Clarity. If you have a real team, examine what it produces each Sprint. There is clarity in that. Problems are much more obvious. There is much less confusion. The best actions to make further progress are clearer. Tracking team productivity or progress every Sprint is far more useful than tracking individual productivity or progress.
  6. Scrum is built upon a team concept. (Fundamental to making Scrum work.) To get the real value from Scrum, you should start with a real, stable, dedicated team. (I think this would apply to all or almost all of Agile.)


Has your team extended its potential today?  (You see my bias, that a team always has far more potential than it has realized.)



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