Part one of this article series can be found here: Human Resource Management in Agile Part 2.

From the previous article you could find out what mistakes you make when implementing your own projects and business projects. Today we’ll do something a little different. We will learn how to build a great team and we will learn the principles of constructive feedback.

As follows from the preceding article, the success of the project is not due to procedural or technological solutions, but it depends mainly on project team members who are ripped, loyal to each other and closely cooperating. But really, the creation of harmonious design team is nothing more than a pure lottery. In fact, there is no way to do it right away. Very often, the project team is inadequate. It may also happen that it will provide people who are really loners, which always will be a challenge.

So what is a project team? This is really a group of people who are connected with each other and work together to produce a product that from start to finish will meet all expectations defined at the beginning of the project. The work of this type of project team will be really much better than the results of the same people working in a poorly managed group of low morale. Note that if our people create a good and understanding team, it increases their likelihood of success in the project. In this case, the project manager’s task is only the removal of all obstacles in the way of the project team.

What to Consider when Choosing a Design Team

The answer to this question is obvious. For the project team to be successful, its members must have the necessary competence. The manager or project leader must, therefore, be perfectly familiar with the requirements and skills necessary to carry out project tasks. A good project manager must be able to organize the selection of its members. Team members should not only be characterized by the relevant professional competencies that are required to complete all project tasks assigned to them, but they must also all be characterized by certain psychological predispositions that facilitate their work in a team. Thus, already in the process of hiring employees, we place great emphasis on at least some features of human communication. Really in the case of candidates for the workers do not be afraid to conduct interviews or interrogations.

This will increase not only the safety of our company, about which I wrote the social engineering articles: Part 1 and Part 2, but also help determine if a person has the competence to work in our company and for a given project. Require each candidate to prepare a brief presentation on any topic which concerns some aspect of the work he does.

During the interview, the candidate should listen to people who potentially will be with him. Afterwards the staff should meet to discuss whether the person actually is suitable for the project. However, the final decision is up to the head of the project, and it should be addressed at the time he is taking feedback from his future colleagues. The truth is that if workers have to accept the candidate, the process of implementation in the duties of staff runs really smoothly and peacefully.

Each employee’s key objectives should be the aims of the company. And now what is the project manager? First of all he has to recognize employees, and how the project will affect the business strategy. To really understand the purpose of the project and its place in the main objectives of the company allows employees to work much more efficiently. By understanding the objective of the project, all employees can also follow in the right direction for the company and project. This gives all employees a sense of ownership of the project. Remember that the project team is not needed in order to achieve collective goals, but just to adapt to the individual goals of individual team members.

We have selected our team, but is this is all we can do? staff changes will have very significant impact on the success of each project. Suppose that the team has a number of employees who have not only the required competencies, but also they can easily communicate with each other and know how well they work together. It would seem that everything is as it should be. But what happens when this delicate structure is changed and destabilized? Of course, this could negatively affect the tasks carried out by it.

Please note that the employment of any new people is certainly associated with changes of the budget and project schedule. Each new person must also be trained by other team members. So every new person takes away time from other persons in the project, it also raises its costs, because if the client pays us for the work of 10 programmers, some may have to teach the others in addition their job and anything else extra. This can degrade the quality of the product by increasing the number of errors in the project.

After a while you will notice something that is called “become acquainted the project team”. How does it work? Well, the band begins to be characterized by a very strong sense of their own identity, it recognizes that it is really unique and that it has a joint ownership. You may also notice that the team did not go anywhere before the end of the project. All matters related to remuneration, prestige, and advancement opportunities then go into the background.

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How Do You Effectively Kill the Spirit of the Team?

Sometimes it happens that we inadvertently use methods which are damaging to the formation of teams. They also effectively destroy all social ties during the course of the project. Let’s look at them and try to describe them.

The first of the features that can be mentioned here is the so-called defensive management, which is characterized by a complete lack of trust in employees. If employees realize that management really does not trust them and they start to feel the lack of independence, then surely they fail to create a harmonious team. Believe me, this situation is indeed reflected in everyday life.

Another killer of team spirit is the bureaucracy. Remember that too much paper work takes away from the rhythm of each of the teams. Work cannot begin to take on solving the real problem when there is the possibility of its dissolution. The bureaucracy is actually able to kill anyone, even a fledgling project.

Another of the problems as it turns out, is the physical separation of project team members. People have to create a really good team, and indeed are dispersed throughout different locations in different buildings. Of course, they can communicate with various internal tools and work in that case does not suffer. On the other hand, we suffer from a lack of personal contact with workers, which should strengthen the ties between people. With the ability to work remotely I definitely prefer to work in the office. This allows me to drink coffee or eat lunch with people from the project. We can learn, make an appointment after work. And this is just cool.

We may also make another mistake. What happens if our employees are involved in several projects at once? For sure will change jobs every now and then to perform the tasks that are in the second draft. This will result in decreased performance of individuals and prevent the formation of the team.

Now for the reduction of product quality, once finally delivered. Notice that if we deliver the product at an earlier date than planned, I’m sure this will impair its quality. Of course, the customer and end user accept it, because they get a tad lower quality product in return for a faster and cheaper finished product. It is really an unhealthy situation for the team because they are able to provide a much better product than the one that has to be released at the moment. It is also something else. Tight schedules make it impossible for the team to have success. This discourages team members from making the effort and commitment.

The worst of the features that may be mentioned is to control the degree of becoming acquainted teams. In fact, a huge source of satisfaction of employees is to work in a particular group of colleagues on new problems. The worst part is that team spirit is sometimes seen by management as a threat. The prospect of splitting the team may lead to its complete disintegration before the end of the project.

Constructive Feedback

What we now describe is not easy. Feedback should always be given immediately after the occurrence of a given situation. Any criticism is best conveyed in person. Workers can, of course praise in public, except for cases when a team is highly conflicted and its members compete with each other on many levels. The basic mistake that is committed when criticizing someone else’s ideas, is to take a position of an infallible and omniscient authority. If you are going to criticize anyone remember the following things:

  • We need to emphasize the detailed criticism of the different elements of the idea alone, recognize its strengths and weaknesses. We should not criticize the whole idea (“It’s an unreal, stupid idea.” We can say this: “In this idea I do not like this and that, while this is great.”)
  • Be sure to justify your opinion. The sentence “I am not convinced of your idea, because recent studies have shown that there may be some complications associated with this idea.” Is better than the sentence: “But we know that it will not work.”
  • When speaking, treat a person with respect and use the language he or she understands, enabling further discussion. Avoid the use of magical formulas or special terms in order to discredit the idea.
  • We must also stress the personal nature of criticism. Remember that it is our opinion. Avoid impersonal criticism in expressing oneself. We must emphasize that this is the idea that is not to our liking, not the person who had the idea.

When expressing criticism, we can use the following statement format: “For me the problem is that (list the disadvantages of an idea), because (we explain here.)”. An example of a well-articulated critique: “For me the problem is that the users will not be able to find topics that interest them, because at the moment there are many uncategorized links.”

Of course, when providing feedback, we can try to ascend to a higher level. We can do that to stimulate the creativity of the person and use the technique: “I like it (your idea) because (3 strengths). What to change (here, raising objections).” An example of such a sentence is worded: “I like your site design, it attracts attention because it has interesting colors and well exposed name. I wonder what can be done so that users can quickly find content of interest to them.”

There are also phrases that should be avoided. Using them can lead to smothering both the idea and its creator. Here is a list of so-called “idea killers”:

  • Yes, but …
  • Already working on it.
  • It cannot work.
  • We are not prepared yet.
  • In theory, as if everything is correct. How does it work in practice?
  • Too theoretical.
  • Not only theoretically founded.
  • Too modern.
  • Too outdated.
  • We are too small.
  • We’re a beginner, we cannot hijack it.
  • You will think about it another time.
  • And who invented it?
  • I just know that it will never work.
  • A special commission.
  • Let us be realistic.
  • Let’s be practical.
  • Wait and see …
  • I do not see any connection.
  • It will not work in our environment.
  • We are not responsible for it.
  • This will only be a problem.
  • We coped very well without it.
  • This means more work for us.
  • It is too early for it!
  • Too late for that!
  • Our people will not accept.
  • You just do not understand what our problem is.
  • No, no, I cannot.

Summary

In this article we have gained the foundation of how to build a good team, designed to work in Agile. We learned also to build constructive feedback. The next article will talk about communication, cooperation and motivation. Then we will move on to the full Agile environment and demonstrate how you can put the acquired knowledge into practice here as well as I do I use it in their project teams.

Sources:

  • Books of Tom DeMarco