Agile Teamwork - A Stumbling Block or a Stepping Stone to High Performance?

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allocation

Knowing what team roles someone prefers can help with the allocation of tasks. For example, giving an Explorer-Promoter tasks with a high need for detail is probably an unwise move. Asking Reporter-Advisers to work in a job that requires a ‘thrusting’ approach to organize projects and deliver results on time may cause them unnecessary stress.

Colored meetings

 

Many teams use the concept of the Team Management Wheel in planning meetings. Green meetings focus on information and ideas. Yellow meetings explore options and discuss relevant ‘promotions’. Red meetings are all about planning for action and results. Blue meetings are review meetings to go over the detail. In this way adequate time can be assigned for four distinct but important features of teamwork.

Understanding others

Different roles on the Team Management Wheel see the world in different ways. As a result, team members tend to make negative attributions about those on the other side of the Wheel. Explorer-Promoters may see Controller-Inspectors as dull, boring, pedantic and detail- oriented. Controller-Inspectors in return may see Explorer-Promoters as loud-mouthed, waffling and with little substance. It’s a natural human tendency to look negatively on those who are ‘different’. However all roles are necessary to get the best from a team because, often, it is out of diversity that the best solutions arise. Learning how to appreciate individual strengths can be achieved by use of the Team Management Wheel.

Linking

Some of key features of Agile Teams are worth summarizing as they have great application to the delivery of high-performance in geographically dispersed and/or international teams. In particular, Agile Teams need to:

  • Recognize individuals as autonomous, intelligent agents that interact and collaborate by understanding and valuing behavioral differences
    • Operate with simple ground rules that help them function at the edge of chaos
    • Willingly undergo continuous learning and adaptation
    • Implement Linking Skills, where guidance rather than control allows emergent order to appear, thereby harnessing creative talent
    • Operate with open information to all team members and stakeholders, making use of social media tools to capture and share rapidly changing situations

So what are some of the important Linking Skills? They aren’t preferences but a set of important skills that applies individually to team members and collectively to the whole team. Ideal Agile Teams have a low level of leadership control and a high level of autonomy. In these situations team effectiveness largely depends on six key skills of People Linking. These are the skills of Active Listening, Communication, Problem-solving and Counseling, Team Relationships, Participative Decision-Making and Interface Management.

For People Linking to be effective it’s important for all Agile Teams to establish a set of ground rules. These are an agreed set of acceptable individual behaviors that define how team members will interact. Usually they comprise 10-20 statements that are posted in the team meeting room or on the Agile Project Management Platform, agreed at the start of the project and reviewed after each iteration. If a team member is unhappy with a particular team process then it’s easy to open up a discussion just by referring to the relevant ground rule which everyone has already agreed to. Conflict is often avoided by this simple process.

Let’s briefly look at Communication, particularly how it relates to work preferences. When we interact with others, we translate our model of the world into words and use these to attain our outcomes. These words and the supporting communication aids (tone, tempo, and body positions) very much reflect our own views of the world. Therefore, when people try to communicate, there is potential for conflict to arise, as different models

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