Most outcomes in software development and information technology are reflections of team activities. Whether coding a new function or provisioning a server people work together to achieve a goal. The great majority of these collaborations yield positive results; sometimes the results are even extraordinary.  The team or teams doing the work have a HUGE impact on the results.  A coach or a guide needs to be able to read the tea leaves so they can help teams improve. In Teams: The Heart And Soul Of Work, I identified three categories of attributes of good teams. They are:

  1. Skils,
  2. Behaviors, and 
  3. Organization.

Each category is made up of a number of attributes. Today we’ll talk about skills attributes.

Skill Attributes

Skills are the ability to apply the knowledge needed to deliver a specific piece of work. The translation of knowledge to a specific situation requires practice. Individuals first must get knowledge, and then practice applying that knowledge in a range of situations to more than proficient. I once had a boss that was able to read a standards manual, take a few practice tests and then pass a certification examination. But, he could not apply that knowledge in the field because he had not developed the skills needed. The following five questions highlight the skills I generally see as being the most critical for a team.

How diverse are the relevant skills? 

  • The wider the range of skills and experience, the greater the odds that a team will solve the problem they are presented with. The level of diversity of the skills is important so that the team can adapt to unique scenarios and doesn’t fall into thinking that there is only one solution.

Is the team good at negotiating? 

  • User stories are an invitation to a conversation. They are not a contract. Agile by definition requires “give and take” between the team and its stakeholders. In most classic, predictive approaches teams get a set of requirements and a due date with the skill (and ability) to make adjustments in quality and technical debt to meet the mandates given.

How does the team deal with conflict?

  • All relationships have conflict. How that conflict is acknowledged and addressed can be the difference between a bad team and a great team. Teams that let conflict fester or bully team members into compliance will not last and rarely deliver high-quality outcomes.

Does the team have good leadership?

  • Leadership is a skill that improves all the other skills. Someone will lead a team, and because leadership can be situational, leadership skills need to be spread throughout the team.

Is the team organized?

  • Without the right amount of organization, teams lose focus.  Alternatively, over-organization is often a backdoor approach to implementing micromanagement.

Teams need to ensure that members both bring their skills and knowledge to bear and that they spend time adding to and refining skills. Teams are dynamic — people come and go while at the same time the world the team operates in changes. If a good or great team can’t be complacent.