Well-formed agile teams can thrive in a direction ideally set by business vision. Unfortunately, many teams are forced into survival by organizations that push work through the team matrix, forcing teams to establish themselves as dependencies. The purpose of this article is to firmly establish the notion of well-formed teams so that guidance patterns for their creation can help organizations to "thrive" instead of "survive."
In the agile space the notion of the "well-formed team" (WFT) has been discussed. [i][ii] The purpose of a WFT is to have a team thrive in a direction ideally set by business vision. Unfortunately, many teams are forced into survival by organizations that push work through the team matrix, forcing teams to establish themselves as dependencies. The purpose of this article is to firmly establish the notion of WFTs so that guidance patterns for their creation can help organizations to "thrive" instead of "survive."
We establish this by shifting focus away from the notion of principles, values, and other heavy language commonly found in the talked about agile arena. Instead we focus on the power of a well connected group of humans working together to address complex product development or organizational needs. A mature WFT is treated as an indivisible unit, a self-organizing, learning engine of effectiveness , not merely a collection of individuals.
Such teams rarely emerge by chance; a WFT is often intentionally formed with an understanding of the inherent value of such a team in mind. Agile provides pathways that can increase the chances of such a team forming. There are many pathways to a WFT. Our desire is to elevate the notion of a WFT as being the purpose of these agile pathways and the result of these pathways when applied with care. [iii] Real value from a WFT can be rapidly achieved with proper focus.
When people consider what got them to their current market or look closely at how their competitors are succeeding, they typically see smart, sharp, fast hyper productive teams. [iv] They find that some organizations possess a knack for rapidly configuring their teams into an effective shape and deploying their teams to rapidly build new product capabilities. Some competitive organizations can realign themselves within days or a few months, not years. For organizations that cannot move swiftly and who rely on the glacial pace of a classic competitive analysis to determine next steps, they find that the market is already changing and moving on. To compete we see a need for continuous analysis, consumption of that analysis, fast tactical realignment of teams and rapid deployment of new capabilities.
At the heart of competitive success is a team or teams of people who are a business' secret sauce. The nimble behavior and how these teams move as a unit to solve problems are the key ingredients to innovation and rapid product development. We call these teams WFTs because of their unique behavior and the environments in which they live. Many organizations have had these teams in their lifetimes but have failed to conserve the essence of what formed them in the first place. What is interesting is that setting up and stimulating the formation of a WFT can be done quickly when people are trained in what to look for. For example, an agile process like Scrum, when applied properly, can result in a WFT. WFTs are rapidly responding innovation engines of extraordinary value.
Enabling the WFT
Here are some common processes and enablers that we have seen result in a WFT. From the agile variety come Scrum, Lean, and XP. From the more traditional processes come RUP, PMBOK, and Classic SDLC methodologies. Enablers can be assessment instruments for the organization and individuals such as audits, Myers-Briggs or agile assessments. Classic environmental enablers would include things like collocated space, team rooms, training rooms, visible charts and white boards. All of these processes and enablers have good qualities, tools, and ideas in them. However, what we find is that these same