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Lessons learned – Agile for teams

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I attended an inspiring talk on using neuroscience to create high performing teams by Kamila Sip, Director of Neuroscience Research at Neuroleadership Institute. Three factors emerged as key to excellent team relationships and high performance:

  1. Have a common goal – clarity of what is expected and why is a powerful unifying force for the team. It encourages working together as people realise they need the help of others to deliver something that is bigger than their own skill set.
  2. Break group think – celebrate those who raise questions and concerns about the viability and practicality of the work. Harmony doesn’t lead to the greatest productivity and innovation. Challenge is important for finding better answers.
  3. Avoid social loafing – make sure people don’t opt out of pulling their weight by letting other team members take up the slack.


My reflection was how the Kick Off and Investigation steps in setting up Timeboxes or Sprints from AgilePM® addresses these success factors, along with the usefulness of the Daily Standup meeting.

Kick Off

The Kick Off is the point at which the Project Manager hands over the objectives of the Timebox/Sprint to the team. This is when the common goal is established. In my experience it is important to ensure this common goal fulfills the following criteria:

  • Everyone has the same understanding of what it means – facilitate a discussion on what will be achieved and what a good outcome looks like.
  • Give everyone a chance to raise any concerns about practicality, and address them. For example, the team should question and arrange for the necessary resources for the work including equipment, meeting space, time with the business etc.
  • Ensure team members share their interpretation of the objectives so that if there are wildly different views now is the time to debate them. This reduces the risk of group think.

Also in the Kick Off there should be a discussion about who is doing what. This is a chance for team members to define their specialist skills and clarify how they think they can deploy these to contribute to the objective and complement the work of other team members. This begins the process of overcoming social loading.


During the Investigation step, every team member breaks the objective into specific tasks and activities and identifies the inter-dependencies between them. To create a workable plan there has to be horse trading between the team members about what needs to be done first and what can come next. Again this sets the foundations for avoiding social loafing because it is very clear how one persons work is dependent on the contribution from other team members.

It is during Investigation that specific roles are assigned, and this helps to reduce potential team conflict because it reduces mis-match between what a team member thinks they are going to do and what other team members think they are responsible for. Again, it helps to reduce social loafing.

Daily Stand Ups

Daily Stand Ups or Scrums are great for avoiding social loafing as they are the forum where everyone shares their progress and explains what they will be doing next. It is hard to hide a lack of contribution when your colleagues are waiting to hear what you have been doing. In my experience the daily nature of them also exerts a subtle pressure to achieve something worth sharing every day.


AgilePM® is a great approach to building effective Agile working practices. If you want to learn more come and join me at my next AgilePM practitioner course in London in July.