Group Coherence for Project Teams – Group Creativity


of doing things. Pair Programming gives way to "Team Programming", where the entire project team values the creative power and productivity of cross-functional pairing and whole-team ownership of the result.

It is harder for a low-trust or high-control organization to attempt an Agile rollout. Such organizations limit creativity, perpetuating their predicament. Ironically, they may stand to gain the most from the change.

Supporting the Creative Team (aka Amplifiers)
Drawing from the Group Coherence research and our own experience, we would like to offer five suggestions for enabling and supporting group creativity:

1. Create Opportunities for Practice

Practice is an ingredient of Group Coherence (see

2. Reward Teams

Group creativity cannot emerge in an environment where only individuals are measured and rewarded. This prevents individuals from making their specializations available to the group creative process. Also, rewarding functionally aligned teams perpetuates the silo mentality. Cross-functional successes should be celebrated and rewarded in such a way that the individual members derive their success from group achievement.

3. Tolerate Chaos

A team that accepts chaos makes itself vulnerable to discover its weaknesses. An example of this is to invite other teams to observe and evaluate the team's processes and performance. This requires willingness to learn and adapt as well as to be prepared to be wrong.

Being Agile means being adaptable to change so accepting chaos means you are receptive to the benefits of Agile.

4. Socratic questioning

The role of the Agile manager in the context of a self-organized team is very different from policing adherence to the plan or micromanaging each step every team member is allowed to take. The most valuable contributions are those that foster the creativity of the team.

"In Scrum, [managers] replace the time they previously spent "playing nanny" (assigning tasks, getting status reports, and other forms of micromanagement) with more time "playing guru" (mentoring, coaching, playing devil's advocate, helping remove obstacles, helping problem-solve, providing creative input, and guiding the skills development of team members). In making this shift, managers may need to evolve their management style; for example, using Socratic questioning to help the team discover the solution to a problem, rather than simply deciding a solution and assigning it to the team."

Sutherland, 2007 , p23

5. Shared Leadership

Creativity accompanies self-organization and both are processes the group must be allowed to discover, not be directed to. Managers are welcome to contribute ideas in a participatory, not directive manner, to encourage the group to find its own self-organization.

Sharing leadership means allowing the group to own decisions and processes normally expected of managers. Team management of the burndown chart or the communication with users, are two examples.

Group processes and their benefits are invisible to us because we are not trained to detect them. We silo our departments, our teams and even ourselves looking for unique identity at the expense of the group, its creativity and its full potential.

However, when team members perceive group creativity they describe excitement, circumlocution, emphatic statements and signals with change and movement. Their sense of participation in a creative process fuels cooperation and trust that fosters continued creativity and Group Coherence .

In hyper-productive teams there are high levels of group creativity despite functional specialization. These are groups that are willing and allowed to experiment. Group Coherence can help understand the ingredients that can be observed when this happens. In the research these include Trust and Respect , Bonding, Loosening Boundaries , Shared Leadership , Agreement on a Shared Goal and Tolerance for Chaos . These formed the basis for this post. They cannot guarantee an earlier

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