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Team growing

Help teams become better at self-organization

Agile teams should be self-organizing, is the current consensus. In our individualistic society, we train our children and employees to be individually successful and tend to ignore the skills needed to be successful in teams.

We have quietly been assuming that introducing agile would automatically create self-organizing teams. And it is true that the rituals of Scrum or the intensive collaboration in XP do indeed help teams to become more self-organizing.

But Scrum rituals may take your team only part of the way. The Scrum master should be able to coach the team to achieve a higher level, but (s)he will need tools for this.

There are two critical periods the lean-agile transformation. One is initial, when the big change arrives and teams need to adopt the new practices. Creating more transparency, reflecting on the work during the retrospective, taking the customers’ perspective may all be quite new and require some time.

Later on, somewhere between Sprint 30 and 60, the team stops growing. The retrospectives become routine, tension between people may diminish confidence, the new agile thinking becomes routine, the sparkle goes out of it.

That is why we adopt the idea of Team Growing. We do not just focus on becoming more lean-agile in way of working. In parallel and integrated with the lean-agile practices, the team-growing approach offers a set of practices that reflect not just on the work, but on the way the team interacts and grows.

Team members need to trust each other. Trust requires transparency, so the first steps in creating an agile team is creating more transparency. Scrum and Kanban do this by visualizing the work, estimating the work, daily communicating how the Sprint goes, showing the results … Retrospectives serve to examine how we could improve the way we work – but the team should also pay attention to the way the team members interact. The retrospective can therefore also result in backlog items on things the team will do just to be a better team: learn to give compliments or improve the way a difference of opinion is handled. Take the customer view: agile requires it, the product owner is responsible, but what can the team members do?

Team growing is a set of practices solidly founded in lean and agile thinking on the one hand, in positive psychology on the other hand, and based on the belief that people like being part of well-functioning teams. Growing the team will help the transformation and keep the upward spiral going.

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