We want a Stable Team

I think our work generally is about knowledge creation.  And specifically, your business is about knowledge creation. (Knowledge creation is key for almost all people who attend my courses and workshops.)

It is about innovation, creativity, and inventiveness. It is about cool solutions to hard business-technology problems.  It is about some sort of intersection between people and technology. So, coming up with a great product requires something special.

I believe the ‘special thing’ these days is far more likely to come out of a good Team.

So, from a business management viewpoint (and it is the managers, apparently, we most need to convince about this) — we need a stable Team.

It needs to include virtually all the functions, or at least far more, than we ever included before.  And that also means it needs to include business and technology people.  Just for amusement I like to call them suits and geeks. To me it suggests that it might be ‘interesting’ to put them together.

I must mention two things.

It should be FUN to work on a real Team.  In fact, in Scrum, with all but dysfunctional teams, it is fun. (Maybe it could be more fun, if you had a good ScrumMaster helping the fun along.)  And the added fun leads to more productivity too. (Well, to be honest, maybe not always, but probably far more than our dour friends may think.)

It should be more satisfying working in a Team. It is my belief that the human animal has been selected to enjoy life in a small Team.  (Perhaps I mean Darwinian selection.)  Like a family, but a bit different.  A small ‘pack’, maybe within a larger pack.

So, how long should a Team be stable?

To answer this question, we need to identify three basic situations.

1. Mediocre Team. This team improves 20-50% with Scrum.  Give them 6 months.  If they don’t become better by then, then try putting the individuals in different Teams.

2. Good Team.  This team improves in the 100-200% range.  Wow. Leave them alone. They are doing pretty darn well.

3. Great Team. This team improves in the 3x-10x range. Wow!  Don’t mess with them.  This is the goose that laid the golden egg.  You would be crazy to bother them unless they want to be bothered (want to change).  And, if you continue to give them satisfying work, they may never need to change.

But, of course, something will eventually happen…one of the usual human things (birth, marriage, death, move, etc, etc).

It should be that most of your teams are Good or Great.  And therefore everyone is working hard to keep them stable.  And even your Mediocre teams need a good bit of time as stable teams, to see if they will bust out and become Good or Great.

(There is also the situation of the occasional dysfunctional team. Usually that can be identified in a few Sprints. As soon as you are sure it is not just ‘storming’, then you must alter the team’s composition or totally bust them up.)


This idea of stable teams leads to a major shift in orientation. (The change can happen over time.) We no longer start with projects, and find people to do them.  We now start with a Team, and find good work for it to do.  Who knew that people were important?



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Posted in: leadership, Teams

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