One day a couple years ago, I was talking with an agile coach about forming some scrum teams. We sat down by a white board and he drew two basic models for creating teams. The first one was very familiar and a technique that I had been using for most of my career in software development and project work. The other completely flipped around my thinking.
Form teams around the work
This was comfortable. It was a classic model that I was familiar with and understood.
- Initiate a project.
- Assemble a team of people to do the work.
- Complete the work.
- Disassemble the team.
- Do it over again for the next project.
Bring the work to the teams
This was uncomfortable and challenged my thinking. This is where I really started listening and learning.
- Form a team.
- Let them work on a project.
- Complete the work.
- Bring another project to the team.
This model places value in the durable team, a team that sticks together. It places value on the people, relationships and trust they have built as a team. It makes sense right?
Making the change
Now how do you actually put this practice in place without disrupting a system? It has taken a long time for me to see that the shift is slowing occurring in my area. One of my work groups has just completed a major project. This team hasn’t disbanded; instead, they are picking up the next project in their business domain. I think having a dedicated team – they aren’t working on other things and a business domain prioritized backlog contributed greatly. The team is viewed as a whole work group, ready to tackle the next business priority.
Another one of my work groups recently completed a project assignment that came as an add-on to a 3-day training class. This group of individuals, who had not previously worked together as a team, had great team dynamics. They believed in the purpose of the project, and everyone contributed in meaningful ways. After the project completed, the group would have naturally disbanded. It was a post-class assignment after all, essentially extra work to do. I wanted to apply what I learned about durable teams with this group. This team could provide additional value to the organization if they remained together, durable, and worked another project. So I asked if they were up for it. Everyone on the team said, “Yes, I’m in for another project!” on a volunteer basis. Awesome! I can’t wait to see what this team can accomplish. I’m sure it will be amazing. I’ll add this to the list of examples of where durable teams are working in the organization.