Creating Effective Teams

Last week I sat through an excellent presentation titled “Building Effective Teams” by Matthew Ganis. The presentation was given at the technical leadership exchange in 2009 and it is now an elective presentation IBMer’s can watch. The deck was excellent and Matthew clearly has a lot of passion for software and building the best team.

The best time I have had in my professional career is when the team seem to just meld together and productivity just came. I have been on many teams in my career and in each company I worked for I had the pleasure to be on some really great teams. I have also been on some bad teams – which I am sure we all have. One of the key things Matthew gets across is the importance of listening and making everyone on the team feel they are part of something special. Things like “sharing leadership” is a key element, empowering everyone to bring forth their strengths.

A key tip I really liked was the 15 minute stand up meeting. This is where everyone goes to a place where everyone stands, its a short meeting and is often called a “scrum” meeting in agile (what did you do today, what’s your plan tomorrow, is anything blocking you?”. I like the “standing” characteristic. It makes everyone engage and gets their faces out of their laptops.

Apollo Teams – build a team based on the smartest people around.

Bringing together all highly intelligent people alone will fail. Decision making and own agendas got in the way of team performance. You need the “worker”, you need the “leaders” to listen and consolidate input from all and not overrun the discussions. Leaders guide, not always putting their ideas forward. In short, you need a really good mix of people to be successful.

Clarifying goals and making sure everyone has some level of ownership and leadership is key. If you are a leader on a team and its not performing then, as a leader, you need to eliminate the problem and raise the concern.

“forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning”, Bruce Tuckman, 1965

On the “bad teams” it seems the team was stuck in storming. I am not really sure how long a team should be storming but I can imagine if people end up quitting or leaving the team and you are in the storming phase then it’s probably too long.

Since my days as a junior Marine through my recent days at IBM I have seen exceptional leaders. Even on software teams you don’t need to be the best Java guy or the best DB guy, you can be a valuable member of a team just by influencing, listening, and executing your piece.




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