There are many variables that determine the success of a team and its results. In this post we’ll share how an effective team is much more than a group of people working towards a common goal.
A technical coach can be an important player in helping a team align and create a culture that all members can identify with. José Huerta, Technical Coach and Codurance Managing Director in Spain, offers tools to create an effective team capable of collaborating, aligning and achieving its goals while fostering a good working environment.
Starting a technical team
Building a team is not only about creating it from scratch, but also about developing a new dynamic within an established group of people and making it evolve.
There are three main areas to take into account when starting a launch:
- Purpose - Why are we doing this?
Most of the time, the purpose of a team is related to the product or the result to be achieved. But what is the team really striving for? Beyond an end product or goal. Based on Jim Collins' definition, José explains that what the team needs is a vision: a common goal or motivation that has nothing to do with the execution of a project, but with something prior that inspires them in all the work they undertake regardless of the particular project they are on.
It is a yin-yang mix, involving, on the one side, a core ideology with shared values and an inspiring purpose beyond what they can reach, e.g. "saving the environment". And the other side is the envisioned future, what would challenge them to move forward, the audacious goal on a 10 to 30 year horizon.
- Context - Where are we as a team?
Assess and create a common picture of where the team is in terms of capabilities to do what the project needs. How is the team currently functioning? What is hindering the team's work? Are the necessary skills in place?
To make this assessment, there are certain areas that can be studied, such as the team architecture, the production pathways, the quality strategy and the team development model.
- Alignment - How do we want to do this?
Team members need a shared vision of where their project should go. It is important that everyone can share their ideas and that from this exchange they can generate common understandings so that everyone agrees on the steps to be taken. Including all members is necessary to strengthen the team and increase ownership and individual responsibility.
Areas to look at from a Technical Coaching point of view
From the relationship perspective a team can establish agreements in order to be clear on expectations:
- The coaching relationship - Be clear about the position of the coach in the team. A coach is not in charge of solving all the problems that arise. It's important that team members are aware of the reasons why the team needs coaching and that they have clear expectations and commitment.
- The team relationship - Create agreements to nurture trust. Establish the foundations and values on which the team will work. Promote openness, honesty and real conversations. Encourage a space where there are no secrets, give clear and direct but respectful feedback, and don't hold back uncomfortable things.
- Design Partnership Agreement - A DPA is an excellent tool for establishing the overall values you want to see in a team relationship. What things does the team need to do its best work: the culture, how the team identifies itself, what values everyone agrees on? The DPA also involves agreements on how conflict resolution and working arrangements are going to be. The important thing is that the whole team agrees with the values set so that they feel a sense of ownership. It is a live document and can change as the team evolves.
Three tools to help with team performance
There are also three useful tools that help to understand how the team is performing and in which areas it can improve.
- Hackman Model - five areas that enable a team to be effective.
- Being a real team: shared tasks and stability
- Compelling Direction: clear goals that are challenging and consequential
- Enabling Structure: skills needed
- Supportive Context: incentives
- Expert Coaching (10% of importance) not because you have a coach the team will be better.
- Tuckman's team journey - Forming, Storming (chaos), Norming (norms), Performing, Adjourning. Here, the point is to identify in which stage the team is, because depending on that they will need different things from the coaching.
- Dysfunctions of a team, Patrick Lencioni - 5 aspects that if a team does not have, it will be very difficult for it to perform properly: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, attention to results.
What a successful team building process looks like
In summary, the process of building a team effectively (and how technical coaching plays an important role in this) can be encapsulated in:
- Assessment - objectives, current context, may be technical or organisational.
- Coaching for team design - coaching for manager, stakeholders, etc.
- Team launch - agreements, understanding of context, purpose and alignment.
- Individual coaching - pairing, ongoing training for the team, on-site skills board.
- Review learnings and success.
It is important to always reassess where the team is at. The team is constantly re-launching itself because as it evolves there are things that require new attention.
If you’d like to watch the entire session, you can find a link to the video below. You can also review concepts and tools in this miro board that Jose used for his presentation.
You can also check out more previous sessions on technical and team management topics on our videos page.
Thanks to Jose for this session and insights. If you’d like to find out about more technical practices, then please visit our Insights page.