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Achieve the #1 indicator of successful teamsStijn Schutyser
What matters the most in the way teams work? Google did some extensive research on effective teams. They investigated over 150 teams during 2 years and found 5 key dynamics of successful teams. In this blog post, we’ll discuss these 5 indicators and how to achieve the most important one. And guess what, having amazing people is NOT one of them!
The 5 key dynamics of successful teams
Impact is the conviction of team members that their work matters and creates change. In a study, a couple of hundred people were asked what improves their motivation, which they wrote down in a daily diary. The study concluded that progress –impact– is what motivates people most.
Facebook has realized this and lets every employee start with a boot camp of 6 to 8 weeks. Within the first days, the new employees are putting code in production, mostly CSS (in the beginning). It’s visual, it’s rewarding, it has impact and since CSS is just layout, it’s low risk as well.
Meaning conveys the notion that work is (or feels) personally important to team members. The meaning of work is not (always) finding a cure for cancer or safe the world, but most people just want to do a good job. We get meaning from our connections with other people. In IT, an easy way to connect with your colleagues or peers is to program in pairs. A study about pair programming described that 95% of the people were more motivated and had greater confidence in the work they did because of the pairing.
3. Structure and clarity
In most teams, if you ask what the project goal is, most team members don’t know. Team members need to have clear roles, plans and goals. Not only their own individual goals, but also team, program, and organization goals.
Dependability means that team members get things done on time and meet the organization’s expectations in regards to quality. It also means team members trust each other: if someone needs help, they can safely ask for some.
1. Psychological safety
Psychological safety is the belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes (Amy Edmondson, 1999).
That may seem like a strange idea: are we really punished or humiliated in our companies when we express ourselves? This isn’t something extreme you’d only see in a TV show centered around characters in an office. In the end, it all boils down to the feeling a person has: maybe it feels like punishment or humiliation to them, and you just don’t (want to) see it?
Team members should feel safe to take risks and to be vulnerable in front of each other. The other 4 indicators (impact, meaning, structure and clarity, and dependability) don’t work without this one, so this one is clearly the most important one.
Psychological safety is the number 1 indicator of successful teams. Here are our 3 tips to achieve it in your team:
- Try curiosity over judgement. The moment you notice yourself entering into judgement over anyone else, this will negatively impact your ability to connect with them.
- Change the team’s mindset when it comes to failure. Instead of associating failure with nervousness or anxiety (“I’ll look stupid if nobody likes my idea”, “What if my boss sees my mistakes?”), turn it into a moment you and your team can learn from.
- Measure psychological safety objectively. Periodically ask your team how safe they feel and what could enhance their feeling of safety. For example, let your team members routinely fill in surveys on psychological safety and other team dynamics. Ask them how confident they are that they won’t receive retaliation or criticism if they admit an error or make a mistake.
If you create this sense of psychological safety on your own team starting now, you’ll see a more effective team with higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.
This blog post is based on a talk by John Le Drew at Lean Agile Scotland 2018.