High-Performance Teams

Bob Schatz from Agile Infusion is visiting our facility this week, as he does from time to time.

(If you hire someone to train your developers about agile development, I highly recommend that you have them come back periodically. Teams forget some things that they had learned, and also, as they understand more about agile development, they can ask better questions, to improve their understanding even more.)

Bob was talking about high-performance teams, and he asked if we knew what it felt like to work in a team like that. The best analogies I can think of come from outside the software business:

  • When I lived in Detroit, I used to have a lot of friends involved in SCCA car racing, and we used to get together and work on our cars. When you are working on a car with someone, and just as you realize you need a 15 mm wrench, your partner hands it to you, that is a high-performance team. He is watching what you are doing, he knows that the nut you want to tighten is a 15 mm, and he sees that you are going to be ready to tighten it in a moment, so with no words spoken, he has the wrench ready for you.
  • Another example is a jazz band I used to go see in nightclubs around the Detroit area. They had two keyboard players, one who sang and played keyboards, and one who doubled on sax and keyboards. One night one of them was in the middle of a solo on the keyboard when a microphone stand started to fall over. He stopped playing and grabbed the stand, and the other keyboard player finished his solo, without missing a note.

I have been on emergency teams with a number very impressive colleagues. Usually, we would divide the work up based on our areas of expertise, and then go off in our corners and work on our parts, periodically getting back together to check our status. It was a great experience, but it still wasn’t a high-performance team, because we were not working closely together on the same thing, and had not been working that way over a long period of time.

This is one of the bad points about shifting resources around between teams frequently. It changes the team dynamics. Everyone has to learn how to work with the new person, or without the person who was pulled off the team. When teams are always in flux, it is difficult to foster the working relationships that result in high-performance teams.

 

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