When was the last time you practiced?

In this week’s Weekly Inspection, we take a closer look at what it takes to become a high-performing team.

We talk a lot about the value of high-performing teams in agile environments. Stable, persistent teams deliver software more predictably and with higher quality than teams that are pulled from a resource pool on a per-project basis.

But for all the talk we give high-performing teams, we don’t often do the things we need to do to make them high-performing. Even if we make the effort to establish teams, that’s typically the last step before we say, “okay, now go be high-performing”.

But even the highest performing teams didn’t get there by chance. Nor did they get there because they’re composed of high-performing individuals.

High-performing teams practice.

Professional sports teams work out. Military special operations units conduct drills. Theatre ensembles rehearse. We call them different things, but they have a lot in common.

They’re focused on repetition. When you watch a football team execute a play successfully, you’re watching the result of hours of repetitive practice, running and refining the play over and over. Likewise, what seems like a touching moment in a play is the result of the process of repeating that moment in rehearsal.
Their effectiveness relies on authentic feedback. Between repetitions, an objective, experienced onlooker (a coach or a director) is injecting feedback and observations that the team members use to make the next repetition closer to the ideal.
Team members consider them critical to success. A common fear among actors in a play or athletes in a team sport is that they’re not prepared for performance. Practice prepares team members for the activities that matter.

It makes no sense for us to put teams together and put them in game-day situations without giving them opportunities to get better at being a team. We’re asking these teams to collaborate, communicate, innovate and create. These are activities that require repetition and feedback, and we can’t help them become high-performing without practicing them. And it doesn’t take much – one hour a week of communication drills, role-playing, collaboration exercises, or coding practice can have an enormous impact on the effectiveness o the team.

Have a suggestion for the Weekly Inspection? I’d love to hear it. @johnkrewson

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John Krewson

John started Sketch in service to the mission of improving the ways people and teams work together. His past experiences as an agilist and professional actor are the primary sources of inspiration in leading this mission.

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