Monday, June 30, 2008

Taking Teamwork beyond the Boundaries

Agile development experience has demonstrated how practical conditions and simple processes foster highly-performant teams that produce sustainable results.

A Small-World View

Here are some of the "rules-of-thumb" that contribute to success:
  • A small number of people, no more than can be fed by two pizzas
  • Everyone in the same room with no walls and barriers
  • Lots of collaborative tools, include shared computers, full wall visuals, and whiteboards
  • Optimal mutual availability and accountability
  • Full awareness of roles and capabilities
  • Easily communicate with all members
  • Maximum opportunity for serendipity and knowledge sharing
  • Everyone focused on a single well understood project
  • No personnel turnover
Beyond the Ideal

Of course, we all would love to have the conditions that accelerate effective teamwork as described above. The reality is that people are constantly moving, often collaborating across corporate and geographic boundaries, and working on a variety of projects in very complex domains.

Often, technology has been used like an anesthetic to mask the pain of this challenge, slowing the corporate blood flow in order to create the illusion of control. As long as the playing field is level, everyone gets to stay in the game. But the dynamics are changing. People are recognizing the need to reclaim technology and leverage it to support effective teamwork, principles well articluated by the Agile Community.

Moving Beyond the Boundaries

I believe it is possible to achieve effective teamwork even when resources are shifting and people are not co-located. The video below has some great examples of how the creative use of technology can move teamwork beyond today's boundaries. Marketing messages aside, it includes principles such as:
  • Real-time presence awareness of other team members
  • Optimized communication channels, available anywhere
  • Virtual face-to-face interaction
  • Natural, collaborative creation environments
  • Expertise awareness both within and outside of the team
  • Just-in-time, in context knowledge artifacts and documentation
I trust it will spark some ideas for your organization.

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