Principles of creating a strong team
- 1 Let’s find out what makes a team a team in this case?
- 1.1 What should managers do to build strong teams?
- 1.2 Development of culture
- 1.3 Some more important things of building a strong team
- 1.4 Conclusions
The author of the article
Greeting! My name Dmytro KurdyumovI am a certified Agile coach and consultant for company transformations, with more than 7 years of experience helping companies on the path to agility through the transformation of their approaches to product and project management.
The topic of teams became relevant with the advent of Agile approaches. But actually the process started much earlier. In 1986, Harvard Business Review published an article called “The New New Product Development Game,” which stated:
The new emphasis on speed and flexibility requires a change in the approach to managing new product development. A traditional sequential or “relay” approach to product development, exemplified by the phased planning system, can conflict with the goals of maximum speed and flexibility. Instead, it makes more sense to use a “rugby” approach where the team tries to cover the distance as a unit by passing the ball back and forth – which better suits the current competitive requirements.
It was in this article that the authors wrote about the importance of teamwork — where participants move together across the field, passing the ball to each other, like in rugby.
Professionals who are not able to work in a team will not bring much value to the company if they know how to work in a team. Therefore, many companies and managers bet on teams that are able to move towards the goal as a whole, overcoming obstacles.
Let’s find out what makes a team a team in this case?
1. General purpose and vision
Just like in rugby, where the team strives to win, effective product development teams share a common goal and vision. It is a motivating factor, encouraging team members to work together to achieve success.
In practice, I have also observed that teams should not just have a goal that is handed down from above, but a goal that the team members share. A real team should form its own goals.
2. Autonomy and the ability to make decisions
With autonomy and responsibility, team members will somehow learn to make decisions on their own and learn how to overcome obstacles, because it is not the manager who will direct them and bring everything ready, but they themselves. All this leads to more cool creative solutions and speed. Speed is achieved due to the fact that participants do not waste time on coordination, but make decisions themselves in their area of responsibility. But it is also important that the team has all the necessary members to achieve the goal.
3. Quick response to changes
In rugby, a team has to react quickly to change. If the team accepts changes and is not able to quickly change direction, it will be like the Titanic, which continued to move forward by inertia. As a result, the story ended deplorably. So it is in a strong team: participants must be able to change direction quickly. Otherwise, participants will not be able to adjust their vector upon the appearance of new introductory ones.
4. Joint overcoming of difficulties and crises and their analysis
Teams must overcome difficulties together and, most importantly, analyze their experiences. In my practice, I have very rarely met teams that openly talk about problems, that analyze the path they have taken. Without analysis and feedback overcoming difficulties will not develop the team as much as if they did.
5. Constructive conflicts
How often do you see constructive conflict in your teams? And is it good that they are not there?
I’ll say it’s bad. Since there is constructive conflict, it means that the team lives, breathes and makes decisions. This means that there are many caring people inside who want to do better.
I have often observed teams in which everything is fine – problems are not discussed, ideas are not offered. There is nothing worse than a team that has “no problems” and “everything is fine”. In practice, I noticed that such teams, on the contrary, are dysfunctional. They only demonstrate that “everything is fine” on the outside, but inside there is indifference, a lack of initiative and a desire to do cool things.
Strong teams must constantly learn. Not only on their own experience, but also to learn modern approaches that help to do their work. Therefore, leave time and budget for training such teams. Let teams maintain their own backlog of knowledge and tools they need to work together.
What should managers do to build strong teams?
When creating strong teams, managers change their role from manager-controllers, who set tasks, monitor performance, and so on, to manager-leaders, who organize the conditions for such teams. Conditions in which people are able to move towards a goal without obstacles, have the necessary tools and skills, and develop. This term is also called Servant leadership.
Important tasks of a manager in such teams:
Ensure elimination of external obstacles to teams. Especially the external ones, as the internal teams have to overcome on their own. This includes, for example, changing processes only at the company level that can become a hindrance to the team.
Development. Allocate the budget for development.
Active listening. Listen to the pains and needs of the team and help solve them.
Coach the team. To ask, to be not a manager, but a coach who can help the team to find questions on their own.
Development of culture
Culture is an invisible force that permeates every aspect of teamwork and has a huge impact on its success and effectiveness.
Culture shapes common values, establishes norms of interaction and stimulates behavioral patterns within the team. The importance of culture is not only to create a pleasant work environment, but also to be an indispensable factor that guides the team towards common goals and inspires the achievement of outstanding results.
What aspects of culture is important for a manager to develop?
A culture where mistakes are normal. Under such a culture, people will not be afraid to make mistakes and will be able to offer better solutions.
Culture of experiments. “And let’s try.” When a team can experiment with a new tool or approach and thereby improve their work. Or make some feature for the user. These things encourage innovation and development.
A culture of trust. When managers do not seek to control every step, but trust people and their decisions. Sometimes such managers, even if they know how to do it, allow teams to make mistakes so that they can gain experience. And believe me, then the team will become stronger, even if you lost a little at the moment.
A culture of honesty and openness where people can talk about problems and be heard.
Some more important things of building a strong team
T-shaping — or encouraging the development of broad skills in a team so that people can be more interchangeable and help each other.
Parallelization of work. So that people can do something in parallel while working and discuss together along the way. Remove the regulated sequential steps that create formalism and kill flexibility.
The team hires itself. When it comes to hiring and building a team, it’s important that the team chooses their own team member based on their values and work ethic.
The process of creating strong teams is difficult, but believe me, in the future such teams will serve as a force that can perform any task independently, with such teams you can conquer mountains and do cool projects.
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More relevant team and project management skills on real business cases can be obtained in online courses from experts at OTUS.