Five Characteristics of Successful Teams

OpenView Partners is a venture capital firm. They have some wonderful stuff on their blog, and Jeff Sutherland often posts there.

Here is another great post based on research at MIT about successful teams.

Five Characteristics of Every Successful Team & How to Build Cohesion

Let me list the five characteristics.

  1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
  2. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  3. Members connect directly with one another — not just with the team leader.
  4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team and bring information back.

There’s more. Go and read! Enjoy and make your team better.  (Thinking and learning are not enough. “To know and not to do is not to know.”)



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Posted in: Better Agile, Teams

3 thoughts on “Five Characteristics of Successful Teams

  1. Theodore Smith

    On the periodical breaks, are these something that should be scheduled as a sprint with one or two a year for the teams to bring new life to the rigors of a yearly sprint cycle. Thoughts?

    1. Joe Little Post author

      Hi Theodore,
      Not sure. Here is the article in the HBR that the OpenView blog was based on.
      It is not clear what they mean about these ‘breaks’. My own view is ‘both’. That is, the team should ‘breaks’ where it reaches outside the team. And these can be within the sprint or informally every so often across sprints. And this can be informal. Then, the team might devise a ‘break’ or ‘breaks’, for example after a release, where they ‘open up the floodgates’ and let the world and their customers help them see with fresh eyes. This is not unlike the ‘pivot’ idea that is in Lean Startup.

      One can imagine problems, at either extreme. No breaks (ie, never looking outside the team for input, especially if the team is suffering from some groupthink). And too many breaks. That is, the team is always ‘breaking’ and never producing a meaningful release quickly. But these ideas must be applied in a specific context and a specific product and industry. One must be careful about over-generalizing.
      Hope that helps.
      Regards, Joe

  2. tushar

    Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that the talent of the individuals that make up the team contributes far less to success than you’d expect. The key to success, according to MIT, is not to stack a team with the smartest and most accomplished people you can find. very useful information.

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