Fixing Broken Team Dynamics

Last week I spoke at the Agile Evangelists Event in Amsterdam. I talked about fixing broken team dynamics.
The agile manifesto states “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. This emphasis on people working together, creates a need to understand how teams work.

If you’re working agile and you seem to have your process in place, but still it doesn’t seem to gel well, it might have to do with the following scheme taken from the excellent book ‘Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”  by Patrick Lencioni:


Absence of trust, leads to fear of conflict. Fear of conflict kills the effectiveness of your retrospectives and kills your transparency.
Now most of the time, if a team doesn’t perform well, we try to find solutions by looking at the top of the pyramid. This creates all kinds of extra waste: we build in checks, add more overhead and make the process bigger.

Where we actually should be looking is at the foundation of your team dynamics: trust.

Here are some tips to build trust:

Get to know each other

  • Share personal history
  • do team building games
  • let the whole team do a personality test (for example MBTI) and share it
  • Meet outside of the context of your working environment, for example having lunch together.
Display trust
  • Ask for help, this shows trust in your team member
  • Make small deposits of trust by letting things go into the hands of someone else
Practical Tips
  • Reflect during standup on your teams agreement on the way you work
  • Limit work in progress – it forces the team to work together
  • Pair programming – great for exposing vulnerability and solving problems together
  • Do a Coding Dojo
  • Co-locate the team
  • Get a big central whiteboard – this encourages spontaneous team discussion
And finally: be patient. Time isn’t a guarantee for trust, but it can help a lot.
Here are the slides of the presentation:

Fixing broken team dynamics – Arthur Arts – JDriven

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