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


of the world are interacting. When opposites come together, there is a great potential for things to go wrong and the discussion or conversation may well be doomed before the first word has been uttered.

Communication is a cybernetic process, ever dynamic and constantly changing. When Person A transmits a message it travels in a forward arc to Person B who responds, and a return message is received by Person A. The response arc contains a variety of messages, verbal and nonverbal and should affect what Person A transmits next. The success of communication lies in extracting meaning from the response arc and reformulating a new forward arc that moves the conversation in the right direction. In cybernetic theory this is called ‘adaptive control’. By constantly varying the content and delivery of the transmitted message a rapport loop can be quickly established between conversing parties. This is known as the technique of ‘pacing’.



Cybernetic processes are governed by the Law of Requisite Variety which, stated simply, says that in any process operating systemically, the elements in the system that have the greatest adaptability or variety are those that gain control. In other words, if Person A constantly adapts their forward arc (based on the information from the response arc), they will be able to influence the results of the interaction.

Pacing is a technique for temporarily modifying your model of the world so that it matches the other person’s. This matching shows the other person that you understand ‘where they are coming from’. Unless you take time to establish ‘a pace’ early in the conversation, the chances of a successful interaction occurring are markedly reduced. Equally the person you are communicating with needs to pace you in the same way. When a ‘ pacing partnership ’ is established communication flows freely and successful outcomes can be generated in a surprisingly short time.

To illustrate this have a look at the Team Management Systems recommendations for pacing Explorer-Promoters and Controller-Inspectors, role preferences directly opposite on the Team Management Wheel. This clearly shows that communicating is not a static process and the best communicators use different approaches for different people. Do you always communicate in the same way? Or do you think about the other person and try to meet them in their model of the world? Try it – you might be surprised at the results.




When interacting with an Explorer-Promoter...

  • Explore ideas with them
  • Give them time to diverge and talk through their ideas
  • Recognize their contributions in public
  • Concentrate on the possibilities
  • Talk enthusiastically
  • Record important agreements in writing
  • Be flexible
  • Don't talk too much about details
  • Don't take issue with their opinions unless they persist
  • Don't dwell on the past

When interacting with a Controller-Inspector....

  • Use e-mail to communicate
  • Send written information before any meetings
  • Slow down your speed of talking
  • Take time to understand them
  • Show you have command of the details
  • Think before you speak
  • Don't 'drop in' unexpectedly; make appointments
  • Don't surprise them
  • Don't rush them
  • Don't concentrate on the future at the expense of the past


Agile Teams need to readily adapt to changing circumstances; a pre-requisite for this is open and free-flowing information. Traditional hierarchical teams impede the flow of information, as power is often correlated with controlling information and releasing it on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Agile IT teams are often geographically dispersed, international and need to use 2.0 tools such as Agile Project Management applications and ‘team wikis’ to ensure rapid response and updates to changing situations. New social media platforms are creating a transformation in

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