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Creating Well Formed Teams

Well Formed Teams

How do you get a complex set of work done? Put a team on it. People working together to accomplish a common goal. We see it everyday, and everywhere. For most cases, that’s how work is done. Quoting Steve Jobs, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people.” But is having a team enough for success? If any combination of people put together will produce a successful result, we would gravitate towards picking all the A listers and chaining them together. But that’s not generally the best combination. To understand the best makeup, we have to define what a Well Formed Team (WFT) means, which is a term used extensively in Agile/Scrum frameworks lately. 

Working on a TeamWhat is it?

A Well Formed Team, per Scrum guidelines, is a team which is self organized, self contained, and value-driven. Such a team uses appropriate Standard of Care while delivering an acceptable amount of work specified by stakeholders. The accountability in such a team is highest between its members, followed by accountability towards its stakeholders. 

Okay, so what does that mean?

Think about teams that inspire you. Their communication, accountability, collective drive, and their output are generally easy to see. These teams demonstrate an un-paralleled thirst for collaboration. Imagine a Formula 1 pit stop crew. To be successful in this team of nearly 20, every crew member must understand their value, individually and for the collective team. With that understanding, the team works to deliver towards the same goal, which is to get the car back on the race track, appropriately provisioned, in the shortest amount of time feasible. The team also constantly measures their service time and improves.  

What’s keeping me from having a WFT?

Uncoordinated pit crews are easy to point out (check out these top 10 pit stop fails on YouTube). In these fail videos, there are some common “pit” falls: 

  • Racer missed the pit crew stop
  • Crew member was rushed into her/his task
  • Tools were not ready
  • Crew did not have people in the right spots
  • Once something wrong happened, crew did not know how to react

As you already know, there are some pretty straightforward parallels between a pit crew and scrum teams. Most of the pit falls above apply. If the team has bad planning elements, is rushed, does not have the appropriate tools and capabilities, or other anti-patterns, it is most likely setting up for failure. Not having a clear understanding of the business value is often crippling to the team as well. Most importantly, if the team members do not understand their own place in the group and the value they bring, then there’s definitely a need for improvement or change. The Ferrari team shows us what a generally awe inspiring team looks like.

Here's the difference:

  • The crew was ready
  • Excellent coordination
  • Every member seemed to be in the right place
  • Synched execution
  • Granular tasks

Overall, we are counting on each other in a highly demanding environment to deliver business value in a timely manner. Striving to become a Well Formed Team would enable us to deliver towards the same.

Sounds good, but where do I go next?

Stay tuned for an additional blog post with a checklist on what it takes to build the perfect team. Do you think you have a Well Formed Team? Please share your wisdom in the comments section below, so other teams may follow suit. :)

Abhijeet Kher, Senior Software Engineer

Abhijeet Kher, Senior Software Engineer

When Abhijeet is not rallying his Agile-minded peers to “crush” stories and honing his mobile development skills, he can be found training for 5Ks or exploring the Iowa countryside on his motorcycle. Over the last four years, he has worn multiple hats at ISE, from Developer, Scrum Master, to Product Owner/Team Lead. He has a bachelor's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Iowa, which enables him to be sufficiently dangerous in the software tinkering world.

Abhijeet Kher, Senior Software Engineer

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