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Posts tagged ‘Project Team’

Don’t tell me you really want to increase your team’s performance – I won’t believe you

Image by Trucker TomI bet you $50 that even if I told you the way to boost your team’s performance without increasing your costs – you wouldn’t do it. The situation is actually worst than that! I’ll add another $50 that I even know what you will tell me once I tell you. You will say “We can’t do that in our organization“.

Ready to find out?

Stop assigning people to projects and let them pick the project they wish to work on – that’s it!

I can hear you – “We can’t do that in our organization” – there, I just saved $100.

Seriously, it is that simple. Think back to a project you worked on – were you assigned or did you select it yourself? Now do this exercise. Think back to something you enjoy, I mean you truly enjoy – were you assigned or did you pick it yourself?

Have you ever heard of Tom Sawyer withewashing the fence? As Mark Twain once said, “Work is something you are forced to do while leisure is something you choose to do”.

I don’t mean to pretend that work is a hobby but many organizations ignore people’s intrinsic motivation and personal drive when they (i.e. the managers) assign people to projects. No matter what the project is about, there will always be people interested in working on such a project. Ever heard of Crowdsourcing?

In most organizations, it may not be easy to let people select their own project, but it is feasible. Some organizational constraints may need to be modified, project assignment may need to be done differently, some resource planning may be required but all of this is feasible.

As one of the participant highlighted “I used to be bored to death in my normal job until one day, I asked (begged) to be part of a specific project. I’m so glad they granted my wish. I now work 55 hours a week! I am super motivated and nothing is going to make me want to leave that project”. Still think letting people select their project is a bad idea? – Analytical-Mind.

Go ahead, give it a try and see the results for yourself. I have tried this approach on many occasions and the results always impress me.

Great news the project is over! Now let’s dismantle the team

Image by pgcCongratulations, you have finally delivered the project! The team you have carefully assembled over many months can now be dismantled and people can go back to their normal job. That’s the natural sequence in the project management world – project is kicked-off, team is assembled, team develops solution, team encounters delays, team tests solution, team moves solution into production, team hands-off solution to maintenance team, project team is dismantled, and life goes back to normal.

I wonder if the Green Bay Packers will do the same now that they have won SuperBowl XLV or maybe the San Fransisco Giants may want to start their 2011 season with new players after winning the 2010 World Series. At least the F.C. Internazionale Milano should want to give it a fresh start after winning the Serie A championship, wouldn’t you think?

Nobody would consider breaking up a highly performing sport team but when it comes to software development, it is common for organizations and departments to split up team members and start new with their next project.

From a purely practical perspective, breaking up a performing team makes no sense considering the time invested in:

  • carefully selecting and recruiting the right people with the right skill sets and the right attitude,
  • hiring external consultants with specific skills to complement the existing team,
  • getting the team to work together despite the team members’ personalities, work methods and obvious looming conflicts,
  • training people on the organizational culture and business activities,
  • establishing a leadership style that will work well with the team’s expectations,
  • eliminating the bad hires,
  • building relationships with the team members and between the project team members themselves,
  • etc.

Team members need time to become highly performing. Why not keep those team members together after the completion of their project and assign them together to the next project – even if the skill sets doesn’t seem to be perfect at first glance?

The 5 Dimensions of Leadership in an Agile Context

Following my posts on delivering results in an agile context, the 7 dimensions of an agile project team and their agile work environment, this fifth and final post on Agile Leadership presents the “Leadership” level of the model. I’m hoping to help managers, leaders, and stakeholders better understand which behaviors to modify in order to obtain better performance and improve employee satisfaction within their organization. I came up with five dimensions associated with Leadership in an Agile context.
Picture by pedrosimoes7

Before I begin, I want to make a distinction between management and leadership. Over the years, the terms “leadership” and “management” have often been used as synonyms. To distinguish the two words I would specify that leadership is “transformational” in nature while management is more “transactional”.


Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (wikipedia)

Servant Leadership

Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources (wikipedia)


Management in all business areas and human organization activity is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization (a group of one or more people or entities) or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal (wikipedia)

Goal Setting

Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-targeted objectives. Work on the goal-setting theory suggests that it can serve as an effective tool for making progress by ensuring that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve or help achieve an objective (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Goal Setting dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Are the team members objectives aligned with one another?
  • Are the suggestions coming from the retrospection of the team taken into consideration in the objective settings?

Performance Management

Performance management includes activities to ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Performance Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader clearly define the objectives of his people?
  • Does the organization measure its progress toward its goals?
  • Is the performance measured at the team level in addition to the individual level?
  • Does the company evaluate both the individual’s work behaviours and outcomes against the defined objectives?
  • Do the team members receive timely and frequent feedback?


Remuneration is pay or salary, typically a monetary payment for services rendered, as in an employment (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Remuneration dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Do managers mostly rely on intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation?
  • Does the remuneration model reflect the individual’s contribution to the team or is it based on seniority?
  • Is the compensation model clearly understood by all team members?
  • Is the leader rewarded for the development of his members?
  • Do team members participate in the definition of the compensation of their colleagues?
  • Is the compensation model strictly based on individual performance?


Coaching refers to the activity of a coach in developing the abilities of coachees. Coaching tends to focus on the achievement by coachees of a goal or specific skill (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Coaching dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader support its members in their skills and competences development?
  • Does the leader take the time to teach his team members on how to increase their skills and better themselves?
  • Is the leader selected by the team members?
  • Is the leader evaluated by his team members?

Change Management

Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state (wikipedia)

A few questions to assess the Change Management dimension of the Leadership model:

  • Does the leader work with the team members to establish a clear change management strategy?
  • Does the leader acknowledge that the pace of change is different for all team members?
  • Does the leader deal constructively for team members’ resistance to change?

Leader’s Qualities

Finally, in order to assess if the leader has the right qualities to be successful in an agile environment, I have selected a handful of qualities the leader should clearly demonstrate.

Does the Leader display the following qualities?

  • Making decision when necessary
  • Enthusiasm / Optimism
  • Humility
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Confidence

The 7 Dimensions of an Agile Project Team

In my quest to better define what Agile Leadership is and in an attempt to help managers, leaders, and stakeholders understand which behavior to modify in order to achieve a successful Agile transition within their organization, I broke down the key dimensions associated with an Agile Project team – an upcoming post will present the Agile Leadership dimensions. Based on experience and relying on numerous books and blogs published on the topic, I have extracted seven key dimensions in an attempt to generalize the concept.

My goal is to help teams and organizations going through an Agile transition understand which dimensions to modify to change the status quo. I will define at length and provide reference material in an upcoming post.

Picture by Yukon White Light

Agile Leadership - The Project Team

The Project Team

A project team is a team whose members usually belong to different groups, functions and are assigned to activities for the same project. A team can be divided into sub-teams according to need. Usually project teams are only used for a defined period of time. They are disbanded after the project is deemed complete. Due to the nature of the specific formation and disbandment, project teams are usually in organisations. A team is defined as “an interdependent collection of individuals who work together towards a common goal and who share responsibility for specific outcomes of their organisations”. An additional requirement to the original definition is that “the team is identified as such by those within and outside of the team” – wikipedia

Out of the roles defined in Scrum, the project team is a key area impacted by an Agile transition. Many changes are required in order to take full advantage of the transition – from a motivational and a performance perspective. In this context, the project team encompasses the members of the core project team that are working toward the same end goal, which is to deliver results.

The 7 Dimensions of an Agile Project Team

There are tens of variables that have been identified as key success factors for a successful agile transition. My objective is to group them under 7 dimensions. This does not mean that other dimensions aren’t important or that I offer an exhaustive list. My goal is simply to summarize the success factors under a handful of dimensions.


Autonomy refers to the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision – wikipedia

The concept of self-organised team is one of the pillars of Scrum. In his recent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink presents the differences between empowerment and autonomy (more on his book in an upcoming post) with such compelling arguments that I felt “autonomy” is a much better description of what we aim to achieve with the implementation of Scrum. As such, the team needs to have the ability to determine the sequence of the tasks to be executed, the assignment of each task, the method used to complete their work and other rules required to allow the team to achieve performance while enjoying their work.

A few questions to assess the Autonomy dimension of the project team:

  • Are people on the team able to make decisions themselves and accordingly adapt to changing situations?
  • Does the team determine “how” to solve their issues?
  • Can the teams select the standards and practices that better allow them to produce the right solution?
  • Can the team divide the work as it chooses?
  • Do training, holiday, and vacation time get cancelled when the project falls behind schedule?
  • Can the team members determine who is on or off the team?
  • Does the team maintain a high rate of productivity without being overworked?


Competence is a standardized requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job. It encompasses a combination of knowledge, skills and behavior utilized to improve performance. More generally, competence is the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, having the ability to perform a specific role – wikipedia

As with other expertise, project team members must possess and/or develop certain competences in order to take advantage of the new approach. Although some of the new skills are technical in nature, many are softer interpersonal skills.

A few questions to assess the Competences dimension of the project team:

  • Does the product owner possess the right skills and abilities to successfully execute his role?
  • Are the employees always in an optimal role (matching the requirements with the capabilities and interest of the individual)?
  • Do the team members have the required knowledge and expertise to successfully deliver the expected solution?


Accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report explain and be answerable for resulting consequences – wikipedia

As an Agile team relies on its autonomy to complete its work, the concept of accountability becomes even more critical than it is in a traditional team structure. The lines between the responsibilities of each of the team members become more blurry as tasks and timelines get re-assigned in order to meet the expected results.

A few questions to assess the Accountability dimension of the project team:

  • Do the team members clearly understand their responsibilities?
  • Are the team members committed to the delivery dates?
  • Are all the delivery dates clearly communicated and known by all team members?
  • Does the team successfully deliver functional software at the end of each iteration?
  • Does the team know its velocity?


Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus – wikipedia

Collaboration is a central them in Agile and it is more than two people working side-by-side. In the context of Agile, strong collaboration is a critical quality the needs to be demonstrated by the project team and throughout the duration of the project.

A few questions to assess the Collaboration dimension of the project team:

  • Is the business representative an active member of the project team?
  • Is it accepted that the detail of both the requirements and the solution will emerge as the project progresses?
  • Does the project team accept changing business needs?
  • Do team members accept tasks outside their role and responsibility in order to successfully deliver?
  • Are developers included in the planning process?
  • Are the team members heavily involved in the decision making process?
  • Is the product owner willing to discuss trade-offs between scope and schedule?


Communication is a process of transferring information from one entity to another – wikipedia

Just like collaboration, communication is an elusive concept that is fundamental to the success of the project team.

A few questions to assess the Communication dimension of the project team:

  • Are the right tools in place to facilitate the communication process between team members?
  • Is a wiki in place to centralize access to key project information?
  • Does the team have a collaborative space allocated to them?

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility – wikipedia

The empirical nature of Scrum imposes continuous improvement to the project team. In order to implement the process for the team members to learn and develop their skills, certain aspects need to be established up front and improved throughout the project life cycle.

A few questions to assess the Continuous Improvement dimension of the project team:

  • Are the team members’ performance periodically evaluated and honestly communicated?
  • Are the best practices challenged on a regular basis?
  • Does the team use an empirical process to learn and improve their performance?
  • Does the team hold retrospection sessions to improve?
  • Does the team reserve time to implement improvements?

Processes and Tools

Process typically describes the act of taking something through an established and usually routine set of procedures to convert it from one form to another – wikipedia

A tool, broadly defined, is an entity that interfaces between two or more domains; that facilitates more effective action of one domain upon the other – wikipedia

Finally, to take advantage of the changes an Agile transition brings, the project team needs to use different tools and processes in order to avoid falling back to their old patterns.

A few questions to assess the Processes and Tools dimension of the project team:

  • Does the product owner understand that solving 20% of the problem delivers 80% of the value?
  • Is the team composed of a group of 5 to 9 people?
  • Is the team capable of starting the projects with incomplete requirements?
  • Are projects broken down into smaller components?
  • Are the iterations time-boxed?
  • Are the required processes clearly defined and communicated to all team members?

I am currently working on a more exhaustive questionnaire to help those going through a transition monitor their progress. I hope to share the questionnaire shortly.

What is Agile Leadership?

Agile Leadership is the application of the Agile principles (as defined in the Agile Manifesto) to the leadership of software development endeavours.

In addition to encompassing the processes, tools and rules of Agile Scrum, Agile Leadership extrapolates them to change how teams and projects are managed within the context of the work environment and new leadership paradigms to deliver better results.

Agile Leadership Model

Where Agile Scrum mostly focuses on the organization of the project team, the roles and responsibilities of the team members, the artifacts, and the rules under which the project team operates, Agile Leadership includes the work environment as well as the specific leadership abilities expected from the managers and stakeholders.

Agile Leadership is a fundamental paradigm shift with the objective of making the project team successful and the people within the team happier in order to deliver better results. The shift mostly comes from the leadership (aka management style) and the rules used to govern the actions, the behaviours and the outcome of the team.

Getting managers to become more Agile requires changing behaviors and to use a more democratic approach to management. More specifically, Agile Leadership requires to:

  • Transfer certain powers to the team members themselves to let them determine how best to accomplish their tasks;
  • Empower the project team through self-organization and commitment to results;
  • Transfer decision-making to individuals who are closest to the activities;
  • Demonstrate a greater openness to ideas and innovations emerging teams;
  • Clearly define the desired vision and to adapt to the context of each team to ensure alignment with the overall objective of the project and to ensure cohesion between the team members;
  • Provide the necessary support and resources to the project team so they successfully accomplish the expected results;
  • Become a change agent within the organization by accepting and publicly endorsing the idea that the status quo is not acceptable and that the old methods are no longer adapted to the new reality;
  • Systematically involve business people in the definition and execution of solutions;
  • Adapt the style of management so as to use an inclusive and democratic approach.

In addition to bringing new concepts, Agile Leadership also revisits and adds to some of the concepts on which Agile Scrum relies. There is already much documentation (books, blogs, podcast, etc.) on the topic of Agile. In an upcoming blog post, I will add details to the areas of focus listed below and associate the underlying concepts with theories explained at length elsewhere in other areas of expertise such: as organizational behavior, organizational development, management science, and coaching.