A “Team” is generally defined as a group of people who work together towards a shared goal. And in our experience, effective interaction forms the bedrock of such a ‘team’ – a factor often taken for granted. All the more true in an agile environment, where one sees high levels of ambiguity, uncertainty, and diversity.
Some of the common issues brought up by managers/leads include dysfunctional teams, poor participation, a lack of openness, poor innovation levels, and less than optimal outcomes. A lack of effective collaboration across team members was a standard issue observed across all the scenarios as mentioned above. While no singular factor derails collaboration, I’ll attempt to highlight a few critical ones in the following few sections.
Cross-functional team members, geographically dispersed teams, digital dependencies, poor communication practices, diversity of skill sets, cultural differences, structural tension, the power struggle within the group, most ironically an over-emphasis on collaboration for the sake of it – are some of the most common disruptive factors we’ve come across. We won’t delve into the specifics of dealing with each of these issues in this post. However, sharing a quick, five tried and tested pointers that will help establish a healthy environment for collaboration within agile teams
- Ensure Shared Direction and Goals
Often teams lose interest and motivation if they don’t understand the bigger picture. The team members should feel a sense of Inclusivity and the value generated towards achieving the goals. To intrinsically motivate the teams, the leaders need to set a direction for the team. The goals set by the leaders should be challenging and consequential. Having a Reward system will help the teams achieve their goal through increased interaction.
- Ensure a Balance of Skills
Teams should have the right balance of technical and social skill sets. Loading the team with experts could intimidate the rest, reducing interaction levels. While leaning too far the other way could hinder the progress. In such cases pairing lesser skilled people with the experts on new skills or swarming on specific areas will increase knowledge transfer and interaction.
- Consider Gaming Activities to Drive Engagement
Video meetups and virtual games could increase the bonding among the team members. These games can help break the ice, understand each other’s culture and intentions, understand one another’s judgment and problem-solving skills leading to better communication and interaction.
- Chart Out Norms to Drive Down Ambiguity
Chart out norms that spell out what each member should do regardless of the language or cultural barrier. E.g., Speak up, arrive on time, give everyone a turn to speak, etc
- Encourage a Culture of Questioning
Always encourage robust and open-ended questions. Questioning can open discussions, clarifications, learnings, and process improvements whenever the interaction is lesser or silence is felt. Knowing and identifying why the exchanges are poor and applying one of the above approaches can make a difference.
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