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Teaming – could this be the future of agile?

We all know the benefits of teams. A bunch of people who work together over long periods of time and are fairly stable. They grow together and learn together and the team is worth more than the sum of the individuals. IF you’ve worked in one of these teams – you will know what I’m speaking about. It feels amazing.

However in most companies this idea of stable teams seems like an impossibility. People (often referred to as resources) are shifted all over like chess pieces not allowing time for the goodness of teams to grow. There is much that we as agile coaches can do here. I believe teams are possible in just about any environment – but it does require a very different mindset.  We could also argue the point that if the word resources is used, is that company truly agile?

Ok… I hear you. For the sake of this blog post I’m going to put on a different lens.

I once worked with a tiny company, around 20 people. They worked for various clients on an hourly billing case. Every project the people were mixed and mashed into new teams, depending on what the client/project needed doing and who was available. The big thing for me here was that it WORKED. Sure they had problems. But when it came to team work – they were solid. This is what is called teaming. Forming haphazard teams and working together well and then disbanding.

Here is a TED talk on the topic:

So what did this little company do differently? Well they really focused on building trust between everyone. They played games in the office (board games) and regularly went out to lunch together – think once a week at least. They often went for drinks and coffee. Most weekends – they would hangout. Not everyone together, but in little groups. They all became friends. When they shifted teams, they were sad to leave their team buddies but also excited to work with other friends. They wouldn’t stick to their team for code reviews – everyone and anyone in the office could do this. Once a week they had a “formal” get together to show what they were busy with.

I also recently worked with an even smaller company of 10. Of this 8 were developers. We were running Scrum, but a fairly lose interpretation. The team would plan together and understand the work together. And then as they were committing they would form smaller teams for each story, 2 to 3 people. We called this a micro-team. The micro-team could work in any way they wanted, and in the daily stand-up they would explain their progress to the other micro-teams. If a team needed help they could ask anyone.  This allowed them to partner with developers with the right skills for that problem and to also have someone working closely with them. One thing we watched out for and called out was favorites. You could only micro-team with the same people twice in a row – then you had to mix it up.

You might see flavors of pairing and mobbing in the above two stories. Now I have a new term “TEAMING”.

So with this new lens on, look around, to your left and your right. How can you figure out your team mates best skills and use them and your skills in the best way possible?