Group Coherence for Project Teams - Collaborative Interaction


couple of years, a symptom the managers could observe. During this time developers' private objectives listed pairing targets but the reality never moved significantly away from zero. The obstacles in Table 1 removed credibility from an annual performance objective such as "20% pair programming."

Performance objectives, incentives and directives assigned to each Individual cannot engender collaborative activities in a team. Even if such an objective got two people to share a keyboard, this does not constitute pair programming by itself and it is likely that the individuals could achieve more on their own. As the two developers start to reasonably detect the waste inherent in their activity, they will shift back to working on their own.

Teams new to Agile are more likely to continue with their activities largely unchanged despite the directives. Additionally, the potential "sum of the parts" benefit from pair programming can be hard to sell in an environment that only measures the individual and does not value team metrics.

State Shift
As with the pairing example, Collaborative Interaction either happens or it doesn't. This was just the experience of Team-K. When they removed the obstacles to their collaboration, pairing started to happen all the time. In the process they experienced Group Coherence , which we defined in our first post as the shared state reached by a group of people that allows them to perform one or more tasks in perfect rhythm and harmony with great energy to overcome obstacles. More seasoned Agile teams are likely to pair irrespective of any directive because they have coherent experience they can draw from.

In the same way that water can become vapor or ice at specific temperatures, so too can a group operate at a visibly different level as a result of a complex set of conditions in their environment. The Group Coherence research team named this sudden transition State Shift . It was one of five key ingredients that they felt would be always present when Group Coherence occurred.

State Shift and Group Coherence were illustrated on a beach at Cape Cod when the tide came in around a hill of sand until it became an island. Joe, Joanna's yoga teacher, sat on his dry towel on the hill as the water continued to rise. Group Coherence is accompanied by State Shift , which appears just the way the tide infused the towel, suddenly and completely (dry to wet).

César recalls the moment of Group Coherence accompanied by State Shift in collaboration that occurred in Team-K:

"The members wanted Team-K to be Agile but there was no collaboration. Lack of pairing was the most obvious symptom of this problem. How could our actions be so different from the behavior we aspired to? We tried addressing things under our immediate control like the terrible ergonomics, but because they made no difference, we undid the changes.

I setup meetings with other developers to discuss our own problems rather than blame the hierarchy for not solving them for us. We identified obstacles to our performance [resulting in the list in Table 1 above]. We implemented process changes that didn't require management permission.

Each individual shared his or her project/s with the group and as a community we ranked them in order of importance. This allowed the community to self-organize and collaborate on the most important one. While such changes improved morale our performance did not improve as much as we had expected and pairing was still virtually nonexistent. We continued to implement subsequent changes in short cycles, acting and observing the effects of what we had done.

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