Posted by: edschepis | April 27, 2010

Foster collaboration in forming teams

After several years working with people I’ve now realized that I rarely worked with “teams”… more often I’ve worked with groups of people…

I’ve just finished to read the book “The five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick Lencioni and it’s really a great book.

It’s that kind of book you easily and quickly read.

From the Table Group website:

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team explores the fundamental causes of organizational politics and team failure.

This gripping fable centers on Kathryn Petersen, an old-school CEO who comes out of retirement to accept the monumental task of transforming a dysfunctional group of high profile, egocentric executives into a cohesive and effective team. With an amazing gift for building teams, Kathryn forces her colleagues to confront the behavioral pitfalls that destroy most teams and adopt the five characteristics of a truly cohesive one.

You can see from the Five Dysfunction model a good summary of the dysfunctions and how to address them.

The five dysfunction model

But, first of all, what is a team?
One of the best answer I’ve found so far comes from the book “The Wisdom of Teams: Creating a High-Performance Organization” by John Katzenbach and Douglas Smith and is the following:

A team is more than just a working group.
A team is… a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance, goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

If we agree on the definition above then we can start to work on collaboration in the same direction with the team and the team will evolve following the diagram below:

Team performance curve[thanks to LMC for the nice picture]

A team will evolve to high-performance passing the well known (since 1965) maturity phases: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing… but the team can’t be alone on this effort.
Help is required and appreciated specially in the early stages.

No matter the name you want to use (Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Agent of change, Facilitator, …) if you are working with a team you should read and carefully learn the following lessons from the book “Collaboration Explained” by Jean Tabaka:

  • When beginning work with a group, don’t trust someone else to tell you that a team is already working in a very convergent, collaborative mode; watch the team for any clues that an underlying current of distrust may still be flowing
  • Make sure you build time into your meetings for team members to openly diverge: evaluate the reference materials, examine your approach, check the preparations, and question the attendance
  • As a group sits in the discomfort that such discussions evoke, do not fall back on command-and-control as a means to move forward; trust in the wisdom of the team
  • Aggressively believe in the team’s ability to find consensus by continually bringing their suggestions and solutions back to them and asking them to formulate a useful consensus

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

That’s all I can say about teams for now… let me go to work with “my” teams now 😉

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