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We want a Stable Team

by Joe Little, 27 January 2013 | The Agile Blogosphere

This content is syndicated from LeanAgileTraining by Joe Little. To view the original post in full, click here.

I think our (your) business is about knowledge creation.  (Well, knowledge creation is key for almost all the people who come to my courses and workshops.)  It is about innovation, creativity, inventiveness. 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.

And 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 we most need to convince about this) — we need a stable Team.

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

We must mention two things.

It should be FUN to work in a real Team.  And in fact, in Scrum with all but dysfunctional teams, it is fun. (But maybe could be more fun, if you had a good ScrumMaster helping the fun along.)

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.  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 basically three 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 5x-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 and until they want to be bothered (want to change).  And, if you continue to give them good satisfying work to do, 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).

(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 change the team composition or totally bust up the team.)

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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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