The Magic and
Science of Teams
Is there a Science
Stop Stumbling on Your Way to
High Performance Teams
“People Working on the Same Product but not
Collaborating are Essentially Working Separate
–Ben Waber, People Analytics
Myths or Facts
Scrum is tool for creating a high performance teams!
Video Conference Tools are as good as face to face!
Face to Face Communication Matters!
Put People in Room and You get a Team!
Constraints harm Teams!
Teams need saving from Cowboy’s
Teams form faster
You will lo
Picture: Copyright Berteig Consulting Inc.
High Performance Teams
• Small number of people with • Committed to a common approach
complementary skills. !
– Requires all team members to contribute
• Committed to a common
equally (effort not skill) !
– Demands open interaction !
• Have a speciﬁc and
– Uses Fact based problem solving !
challenging performance goal. !
– Uses results based evaluation !
• Mutual Accountability
– Provides for modiﬁcation and
improvement over time !
– Seeks fresh input and perspectives
systematically from outside the team
Derived from “The Wisdom of Teams” !
by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith
Many of our behaviours evolved pre-language and still need to be supported today. We evolved with face to face communication and participating in
small groups. Bonobo’s forage in groups of 6-7 for several days foraging.
Contubernium or Section
Section - Unit of 8 recruits, Shared a tent, fought together, also **socialized, played together** - basically they did everything together.
Militaries since that time have **often** had similar sized units.
Cohesive networks have additional advantage that news travels fast. When someone is having a down day that news spreads around the team rapidly. Net
result they benefit far sooner from peer support and understanding.
Neither formal corporate meetings nor chatting at desks increased cohesion
Instead it was overlapping break time and lunches.
What matters - having a water cooler/common coffee place. Having common breaks. Finally a longer lunch table. The longer lunch table helps because it
makes it possible for a team to sit together and for a couple of outsiders to join them.
Team Working Agreements
Scrum Teams need to establish working agreements - what can you establish to support that will help support cohesion
From Broken to Well Connected
Information derived informally or by using Sociometric badges.
Informal - tell people what you’re doing. Of the course of a few days draw simple matrix - record the number of exchanges between two people, the
evenness, the flow and quality. Record using a simple table - use it draw a simple graph.
Source: The New Science of Building Great Teams. by Alex “Sandy” Pentland.
• Energy level as measured by the number of exchanges among team members. An exchange is a comment with an acknowledgement.
• Engagement the average energy between team members should be roughly equal. On teams where exchanges are unequal poorer decisions were
made. This is especially true on distributed teams.
• Exploration is conversation outside the team - most important for creative teams (i.e. all of software development) which need a regular dose of fresh
• The content isn’t as important as the fact the conversations happened.
Story about a German bank where the communication among team members was almost entirely over email. Their goal was to a launch a new product
and the results were considered disastrous.
Video discussions are count to some degree but not anywhere near as much
1 on 1!
• 35% of variation in team performance account for by number of face to face exchanges.
• 1 on 1 or very small group - in depth
• Whole Group - brief to the point statements
• Rough balance between whole group and one-on-one
Social time accounts for more than 50% of positive changes in communication patterns. Conversations happened on breaks at water cooler, coffee
machine and in the lunch space. Back to those long lunch tables. Sadly beer at the pub and formal organized offsite events had limited effect.
Many of the conversations were not about work. Non work conversations helped to build trust. Sadly some organizations discourage conversations
outside of work.
• Are they trying to contribute and being ignored
• Do they cut off others? Do they discourage listening?
• Do they only talk to one other team member?
• Do they face other people in meetings or try to hide physically?
• Do they speak loudly enough?
• Is someone else in their team dominant?
• Do their peers consider them competent?
“People Analytics” - Ben Waber!
“The New Science of Building Great Teams” Alex
“The Wisdom of Teams” - Jon R. Katzenbach and
Douglas K. Smith !
“Leading Teams” - Richard Hackmann!
“The Wisdom of Teams” - James Surowiecki