Teams and teamwork

Team and teamwork are one of the foundations of STARS and Scrum.

STARS and Scrum

Both STARS and Scrum value individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Both STARS and Scrum have principles and practices that promote teamwork.
  • Both STARS and Scrum promote choice by team members through autonomy and self-organization.
  • Both STARS and Scrum have improvement built into the method.
  • Both STARS and Scrum embrace and promote agility.
  • Both STARS and Scrum embrace modern management principles.
  • STARS also embraces postmodern management principles as well.

Scrum includes a number of principles and practices that promote working as a team, including team autonomy, self-organization, no explicit manager role, and everyone being called team members (i.e., no role segregation). In Scrum Master training, the value of teamwork is often emphasized using exercises that promote these principles and practices. Indeed, the Agile Manifesto for software development promotes this in the statement "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools." In my experience with Scrum teams, the theme of individuals and interactions, and by extension teamwork, often arises in retrospectives because not all Scrum team members are naturally team oriented — some are very strong individualists.

How can STARS help teams including Scrum teams?

The STARS People-Process-Product model highlights the importance of people and their interactions between each other and with process and product.

For example, it is people who define, commit to, and implement processes, and it is people who educate others about a process to be implemented. This not only occurs in training but also when coaching, mentoring, or interacting in daily meetings with other team members. It is people who develop products (not the processes) and use other products (e.g., software tools) to help them develop more products. But some products can automate a process, such as a configuration management tool.

In STARS, we make this interaction explicit so people can decide, for example, if something should be people-based (say, Scrum daily stand-ups), product-based (build integration), or based on a mix of people and process (sprint planning and estimating poker). But STARS goes way beyond the People-Process-Product model.

Team theme

The STARS Team theme comprises five stages:

  1. Synergy
  2. Teamwork
  3. Authority
  4. Responsibility and commitment
  5. Support

In STARS, a team is not just a group of people working together.

In my experience, most project teams are not real teams. There is often internal empire building, conflicting priorities, information hiding from other groups within the project, and a lack of collaboration beyond the necessary work. So a project team (as an often used term) is not necessarily a real team! A real team is one that achieves hyperproductivity in Scrum terms. In STARS, Teamwork is a step towards achieving team synergy.

A team needs what I call vitamin C or the 4Cs for teams: team members learn to communicate, cooperate, collaborate, and create consensus to achieve superior outcomes.

In the STARS team theme, we look at how to help team members achieve higher levels of team synergy. STARS includes a number of techniques to create and enhance synergy and teamwork. It also takes the same perspective as Scrum around allocating authority and autonomy to a team, and it also emphasizes that team members must self-organize and commit to the commensurate level of responsibility. In addition, it describes how leadership works in teams, and how the surrounding enterprise needs to supply support to the team, as well as how the team supports others.

STARS also goes beyond Scrum to look at the wider organizational context in which teams operate within the STARS cultural theme. The themes have multiple interactions with each other and also complement each other in a variety of ways.

The way to apply STARS is to look at what you want to achieve, select a theme — or a stage from a theme, or several stages from various themes — look at the suggestions, and choose the best ones to apply. In this way the team can create an upward spiral toward excellence.

STARS provides a superior approach to improvement and excellence over existing one-dimensional models such as PDCA (plan-do-check-act) or even Lean Six Sigma, because it centers on people, intelligent choice, and motivation. And it recognizes the value of teams and enhances teamwork, it's a great match for teams embracing Scrum.

Team work

Teamwork or team work?

Reading agile blogs and books, there seems to be a migration of the meaning of team work (the activities) to teamwork as a goal.

Teamwork should never be the goal! It is however a stage on the way to achieving team synergy. When individuals start to work together, they are not doing so initially as a team, but as a group. See Synergy for more on the difference. Groups can share goals, work areas, activities and events, without ever becoming a team. This is a difference I see working with groups using Scrum, and teams using Scrum. Some never make it!

Scrum is a great way to have people work together and hopefully start to achieve team work. The aim should be to become more productive in terms of producing greater and greater value, but most measures of hyper-productivity (including how Jeff Sutherland describes it) are measured in terms of velocity: the number of story points completed per sprint. Scrum does not ensure that the people will become teams that achieve team synergy and hyper-productivity, but it does give a good framework within which other factors will help this occur. This requires aspects like individual agile leadership, ways of thinking and behaving, shared values and norms, and organizational collaboration that are not specifically addressed in Scrum.Note the latest Scrum guide picks up on some values like trust and respect that have been included in STARS for decades.

One way to start the focus of individuals on becoming teams is early in their work to set goals oriented towards teams, AND also individuals, management, enterprise and the work itself. I invented the TIMEWhirlpool to achieve this. For more on teamwork, team synergy and associated topics, I recommend buying and reading Reaching for the STARS: Agile Leadership and Beyond. On Amazon.