I have enormous respect for teams: they build value from nothing. They are able to align a group of people with different personalities, experiences and lives into a self-organized cell with a single purpose and shared commitment. Teams can turn a challenge or a risk into an opportunity; they can turn the differences between them into productive discussions; they transform their professional and personal diversity into a complementary and rich vision that enhances the options and adds value to the things they work on.
I think I have described some of my ideas and opinions about how amazing agile teams are, but maybe you don’t recognize yourself or your team in my description. Well, don’t worry, it happens often and it’s not your fault. These kinds of teams are rarely found. Moreover, it is difficult to find them because it is extremely hard to become an agile and high-performing team in a given context in which hierarchies, silos, and command and control management behavior are the norm. Teams (not only agile teams) require certain conditions to grow and become the kind of teams that can be described as agile.
Teams, not individuals, are the key to everything. And to me, talking about them in a general way is wrong by definition. I should start by saying that in my experience, agile teams are too complex to be described in a couple of lines. I recommend reading some post or books about the maturity stages of teams working within an agile organization and about the leadership style that managers or leaders should have in each moment, etc. Background information is very useful in understanding the process of growing teams and facilitating this growth.
Anyway, what I would like to talk about is why agile teams have a new key role in an agile organization. Team members are the minimum unit of value production, so to speak. I see no difficulty in using this concept within the context of any enterprise (despite its size) to describe how a single person can add real value.
I referred to a minimum unit of value production because nowadays, I feel that the concept of a “team” is not being used properly. Managers, directors and HR use this word in reference to how the organization is designed. They refer to “teams” when what they are really talking about is management and top-management hierarchies, and how they distribute the people assigned to each manager.
Agile teams are awesome because you can trust them. Agile teams will not just give you a solution to your question, they will ask you about how to maximize value, and they will give you alternative options that you never imagined. They can give you enormous added value, but it does not come for free.
You need to respect the decisions of agile teams. And they need the capability to set their own rules; they need a safe-fail space with no blaming or penalties; they need to be part of the “what” discussion not just the “how” and “when”; they need to celebrate their successes; they need to be able to share their experiences with others; they need transparency in everything related to their activities, etc.
Chapter 1: Enterprise Agility – Agile 4 All
Chapter 2: Enterprise Agility – No value, no party
Chapter 3: Enterprise Agility – Finding and managing business process boundaries
Chapter 4: Enterprise Agility – Help me help you!
Chapter 7: Enterprise Agility – Collaboration as a key success factor