“Teams” (The Same Mistake All Over)

When the students in my classes play the Meddlers game, they often organize teams around projects. Because they have learned, from various Agile sources, that you should “create cross-functional teams around projects”. This means, with small projects, they sometimes group together 3 “cross-functional” people to deliver a piece of software in 2 months, and they call them a “team”.

I think they’re wrong.

Goal-Oriented Social Units

Teams are goal-oriented social units (Esther Derby’s definition). Their goal is not just to deliver a project.

In an environment with continuous delivery and continuous improvement, it is very unclear what a “project” is! The concept of a “project” seems to me a convenient fiction that enables managers to spend budgets. That’s all.

I don’t know what the real goal of a team is. It depends on the team. But I do know that 3 people working together for only 2 months are probably not a team. They are just 3 people working together.

For teams to become social units, they have to be stable and they should have an identity. That takes probably longer than 3 months.

And for them to be goal-oriented, they must have a purpose. That takes more than delivering just one small project.

Organizing “cross-functional teams” around projects is just as short-sighted as organizing “functional teams” around job titles.

It’s the same mistake all over.

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