Agile Leader Pattern 1 for Building Awesome Teams: Encourage Different Perspectives

Awesome Teams

Many of the traditional beliefs about teams work against the potential benefits of teams.

J. Richard Hackman was a leading expert on teams as the Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University. This post is the first in a series of six posts that will expand upon Hackman’s article, The Six Common Misperceptions About Teamwork 1. Based on Hackman’s research, this series will present six patterns for Agile that create the environment for awesome teams to emerge.

The first pattern focuses on the importance of having different points of view on the team.

Pattern 1 – Encourage Different Perspectives

MisperceptionReality
Harmony helps team efficiency.Conflict and differences of opinion generate better, innovative solutions.
Contrary to popular belief, teams work best when there are disagreements amongst the members on the best path to solve a problem. In the presence of different opinions and some constructive friction, the solution will be more innovative.

Putting It Into Agile Practice

Setting the stage to enable constructive debate is the first step to implementing this pattern in your Agile team.

When staffing your team, look for differing backgrounds across team members. Look for those that think differently. Bring members with varied skill specialties into the team. If your team is self-selecting, provide this guidance to the team in selecting its members.

Additionally, team members will not voice opposing views without safety within the team or outside of it. Hence, it is imperative that you, as an Agile leader, support a safe space for thinking differently. In other words, celebrate this behavior. When ideas don’t work out, avoid criticizing this as a waste of time. Safety is a prerequisite.

Now that your team composition is set and safety is present, you now need to support your team to debate different viewpoints.

First, encourage team members to voice different perspectives and debate on alternative paths. The team should debate the cons as well as the pros of a given solution. No question or comment is off limits. In other words, support questioning everything versus “falling in line.” As a leader, ask questions to the team to help them critically think about multiple angles to solve a problem.

Next, your team should have innovation as a driving force. In contrast, they should not be order takers. The safe environment will enable innovation. As an Agile leader, let your team know that innovation is an investment you are willing to make to ensure future delivery success. If their innovations are not successful, celebrate them trying something different. If all innovations succeed, the team is not pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Conclusion

In summary, the first pattern provides an initial step in reprogramming our thinking as leaders on how to optimize Agile teams for success. A diverse team composition and a safe environment are key first steps. Then, as a leader encourage debate and innovation. By practicing this pattern, you will take a strong first step to move towards true, effective teamwork and build an awesome Agile team.

Stay tuned for the next post on pattern 2—Stabilize Teams.


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  1. The Six Common Misperceptions About Teamwork, Robert J. Hackman, June 7, 2011