Are Your Nearshore Agile Teams Stable? 5 Reasons Why It Matters. One of our primary focuses in our nearshoring initiative is the long-term stability of our teams. Here are five key reasons why long-term, stable teams are crucial to a successful agile model.
Unity Maximizes Talent
Believe it or not, talent is not the first consideration when forming an agile team. Picture, if you will, a selection process that puts 3-7 of the most talented people we can find on one team and tells them to go to it. The problem is obvious, isn’t it? There’s absolutely no guarantee they’ll perform well as a group. They might have communication issues, diametrically opposed workflows, or even unresolvable personality conflicts. Regardless of which reason it is, we’ll have a headache on our hands. Their talent doesn’t mean much if we can’t leverage it. That’s why, while technical competency is very important, it’s even more important to take a talented group of professionals and sort them into teams that will perform well. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing
A newly-created agile team goes through several stages on its way to peak productivity. While there are a variety of ways to describe this process, Bruce Tuckman’s tried and true model will do as well as any. First, a group forms around a common challenge and begins to work through it. Then, when the going gets tough, they begin to question and critique each other’s commitment and performance. This is known as the “storming” phase. Once they’ve reached the other side of this rough patch, they begin to build a workflow based on their shared experiences and resolved conflicts, a process known as “norming.” Only then do they begin to truly perform well as a team…and stable, long-term teams can demonstrate as much as 60% more productivity than a new team.
Some organizations underestimate the importance of team stability. They reorganize teams too quickly, or even develop the bad habit of shifting team members to other projects to fill short-term gaps. Ultimately, this prevents any given team from gelling. It’s likely to increase turnover, too, which makes it a self-perpetuating problem.
Each time you disrupt an agile team, you move them back to the forming stage like you’re returning them to “GO” in Monopoly. They’ll eventually reach peak productivity, but it takes time. If every project is being staffed by individuals who are new to working together, going through these stages will create hurdles no matter how great their talent. This is not to say that the stages are inherently bad. They’re a necessary evil, but it’s vital to ensure that the team’s learning process doesn’t adversely affect your outcome. That’s why we focus on building long-term, experienced teams who can hit the ground running.
Long-Term Teams Know Their Velocity
A new team establishing a new process can estimate a deadline, but to an extent they’re shooting at an invisible target. Because they’re having to build rapport and design a workflow at the same time they’re working on your project, a new-to-each-other agile team, through no fault of its own, may struggle to give you a deadline and stick to it. Stable teams are like racing pit crews. They’ve worked together long enough to achieve mastery, and each individual understands his or her role in the larger process intimately. A seasoned team knows exactly how fast it can work, and clients reap the benefits.
Continuous Improvement Requires Continuity
You might think of continuous improvement purely in terms of product outcomes, but the truth is, improved product is only a symptom, an outward manifestation of an internal process. The reason your product is improving, and improving quickly, is because the team learns from each iteration, working backward from outcome and reassessing the process. That kind of deep insight isn’t terribly valuable if the team is then split up and assigned to other projects. So when we build a team that works, we don’t mess with a good thing. Instead, you benefit from the accumulated wisdom of the team’s many retrospectives.
Stable teams learn more on a day-to-day basis, too. Over time, they develop their own culture as they learn to maximize the unique talents of each member. The rapport they build creates many opportunities for team members to share skills and troubleshoot together. This kind of crowdsourced training and pooled knowledge makes the team more agile as a group. They can jump in and lend each other assistance, or even function interchangeably at times. A good team can function so fluidly that our role is primarily to keep the work coming.
Stability Enables Specialization
In the new, virtual workforce lies an unprecedented opportunity to hand-select talent from across the globe. As a result, you’ve probably heard people discuss talent clouds, an innovative new way to approach staffing. Talent clouds re-envision the process of hiring individuals, but at this point you might be beginning to see why we had to think carefully about how to leverage this concept. After all, if your goal is to build stable teams, you’re hoping you won’t have to go shopping for too many new individuals. The solution, it transpires, is to create a talent cloud based on specialized teams rather than specialized individuals. Teams that focus on certain product types are even better at projecting what their velocity will be, and their workflows are honed to a razor’s edge. So, instead of assembling a new team every time someone comes to us with a project, we match your project to a team that has a track record of providing exactly what you need.
If you still need convincing, consider this: the simple act of assigning a team member to a single, dedicated team doubles that person’s productivity. Why? Because constantly adapting to a new agile team is a job in and of itself. Dedicated teams resolve that issue. Ask yourself: which problem do you want your agile team members focused on? The one you’ve hired them to solve, or the instability they’re experiencing as they’re shuffled from one team to another? Choose a partner that knows how to protect high-functioning teams as long-term assets, and you’ll be very pleased with the results.
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