On Building Teams

-# On Building Teams Building teams should be a deliberate practice. Every team change results in a loss of productivity for that team (see [[On Building Teams#Forming Storming Norming and Performing]]). The goal shouldn't be to remove that productivity loss (you can't), but to minimize the net productivity loss in the system.

Axioms of Building Teams

  1. Productive teams aren't always composed of the "smartest", "most talented" people.

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

There are four stages to team gelling - forming, storming, norming, and performing. These stages are sequential and every team needs to go through each one. The amount of time spent in each stage depends on the team, the external factors effecting the team, and the resources given to the team while they are forming.

A new team starts in the Forming stage. Here the team is learning how to work together and figuring out how each individual comes together to form the larger group.

After Forming, the next stage is Storming - this stage is where the team "butts heads" a bit. It doesn't have to be hurtful or bad, but this is where people really start to figure out how they fit in the team. There may be disagreements and minor conflicts as people learn how to work together. This is a good time to rely on Nonviolent Communication strategies to resolve conflict. The ultimate goal here is to ensure each team member feels the psychological safety to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed. Each team member needs to feel like they can be their whole selves at work.

Next up is Norming. This stage brings about the team dynamics that will drive the team to being productive. Norming is all about finding the team norms and structures that allow the team to work productively.

Finally, we reach the Performing stage. This is where the team starts to rely on the structure and norms that were built in the last stage to accelerate their productivity.

When adding or removing people from a team, we fundamentally change the team dynamics. Because of this, any team change should be expected to move the team back to the Forming stage, no matter which stage they are in. That means the more team changes you can make around the same time, the better - the team is much closer to the Forming stage and won't lose as much progress.

Productive Teams

Productive teams aren't necessarily those made of the "smartest" or "most talented" individuals. Instead, it's far more important that the team ranks highly on these five axes:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

eNPS surveys should focus on developing a sense of how a team is feeling on each of these axes.

Resources to incorporate

How full is your trust battery?

Nobody hits the ground running

Basecamp is hiring a Senior Programmer

[Internal Memo] Principles for Decision-Making in a Flat Organization

Distributed Teams

How To Build and Run A Geographically Distributed Engineering Team

A guide to distributed teams - Increment: Teams

Starting Up Your Second Office, With Brian Delahunty

Six Virtues for Distributed Offices

How to Build and Strengthen Distributed Engineering Teams

Building a Distributed Engineering Team

Glitch Handbook - Distributed Working