What Agile has taught me about team synergy

My experience with Agile teams suggests there is a formula for realizing the potential in teams — and we know how to identify it.

Teams can most grow in their collaborative capacity when team members are aware of their differences of perspective in approaching challenges, and learn how to deliberately leverage those preferences to overcome individual and collective blind spots. When teams learn how to turn energy gaps into collaborative strengths, they tend to move from adopting Agile practices to embodying an Agile mindset at a much faster rate. It is the insight into collaborative preference that helps break down team barriers and opens the door to accessing creative potential.

There is ample research, and there are many case studies, showing teams who are preference-aware and trained in a process to yield creative outcomes outperform teams that are not. Further, they are known to produce more and higher quality ideas and enjoy working with their team more than untrained, unaware teams.

While Agile is an effective framework for producing value sooner, its fullest value is not generally realized without a mechanism for creatively feeding and managing the backlog. All of the collaborative preferences I have measured within teams routinely point to Agile practices needing to grow in maturity/fluency. The sooner teams see these gaps and overcome them with a creative process, the faster they move from mastering practice (efficiency) to generating real value (effectiveness and impact).

Teams are the human equivalent of data; they are the latent source of creative potential waiting to be properly mined for customer value. If that potential is encapsulated in the fundamental question, “how do we get better?”, then the technique best suited to discovering team potential is found in the followup question: “where do we need improvement?”

Research in synergistic teaming shows breakthroughs come when teams have alignment on purpose; a creative process to engage their collaborative strengths; and a vibrant team dynamic (communication, safety, trust, creative abrasion). The quicker teams close their learning feedback loops, the sooner they can begin tapping into their unrealized potential. Coupled with creative problem solving training, I have seen great opportunity to speed up the time to value creation.

Research in creativity strongly supports drawing out the creative best in a self-directed team by putting people’s strengths together to form a greater whole, and to train for deliberate creative outcomes. This research reinforces the literal definition of kaizen: to resist the plateau of arrested development.

Immediate takeways for any team

How does your team get better in areas where it does not know it needs to get better?

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