Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Long-term teams

It takes time and effort for a team to learn to work together. Agile teams improve dramatically over the first 6-9 months of working together. Not only teams become more productive, they also get better at estimating, and learn deliver at a steadier pace. Team members learn to communicate well, acquire the cross-functional skills needed to reduce bottlenecks, become good at brainstorming and conflict resolution, form mentoring and supportive relationships that help maintain a great team atmosphere. Within a year of working together, many teams are rolling through the project smoothly, at a steady pace, and enjoying their success.

Yet, it is somewhat rare for the team to stay together for longer than half a year to a year.  There is churn of projects, people come and go, successful teams get broken up to “seed” or improve other teams, that may not be doing particularly well. A great value of a well-gelled team seems to be unaccounted for, and regularly lost, without the organization even noticing.

Agile frameworks do not promote any meaningful way to value teams.  It is hard to talk about the value of a well-gelled, long-term team, and compare it to the value of adding a person or two to some other teams. But it is a conversation worth having.

1 comment:

  1. You're right, and the results are incredible when the conversation means a team is maintained. It's been well-established that long-term, persistent teams outperform teams that have not been together as long--not just in agile software development, but in hospitals, airplane crews, and numerous other contexts. Despite the data and examples of success, it is an ongoing challenge to bring work to established teams rather than react to something and disrupt teams.