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2015-05-18 - Scrum Team Building: Making the most of - individual differences.

At you will find 100% free agile training. The below will be part of the Scrum Master Advanced which will be ready this summer. It will ofcourse contain the full Scrum Master foundation and lot of stuff about team building a theam coaching, so you can create the beste Scrum Team.

Every Scrum teams have team members of course. But if we think all people act the same we might be a bit naive. People are different, and if you want to become a good Scrum Master and Agile coach knowledge about how different people are acting are needed. Setting together the perfect team is impossible and often it is not you as a Scrum Master who decided who you can choose to be in the team. But knowing how people and teams are working and responding to different kind of situation, might help you in creating the best team possible in the given situation - and that can be the different between success and failure.

Ever wondered why some teams just seem to work and others hit the rocks? When things don't work, it is obvious to all and it often has a profound effect on the people involved, as well as the project or objective to be achieved.

In the 1970s, Dr Meredith Belbin and his research team at Henley Management College set about observing teams, with a view to finding out where and how these differences come about. They wanted to control the dynamics of teams to discover if - and how - problems could be pre-empted and avoided. Over a period of nine years, international management teams were studied. Each participant completed a battery of psychometric tests, so that attributes such as personality and behaviour could be brought into play and their effects on the team could be accurately considered.

As the research progressed, the research revealed that the difference between success and failure for a team was not dependent on factors such as intellect, but more on behaviour. The research team began to identify separate clusters of behaviour, each of which formed distinct team contributions or "Team Roles". A Team Role came to be defined as: "A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way." It was found that different individuals displayed different Team Roles to varying degrees.

Let's first have a quick overview of the nine roles Belbin and his team discovered:

Team building

The first Team Role to be identified was the "Plant". The role was so-called because one such individual was "planted" in each team. They tended to be highly creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways.

One by one, the other Team Roles began to emerge. The Monitor Evaluator was needed to provide a logical eye, make impartial judgements where required and to weigh up the team's options in a dispassionate way. Co-coordinators were needed to focus on the team's objectives, draw out team members and delegate work appropriately.

When the team was at risk of becoming isolated and inwardly-focused, Resource Investigators provided inside knowledge on the opposition and made sure that the team's idea would carry to the world outside the team. Implementers were needed to plan a practical, workable strategy and carry it out as efficiently as possible. Completer Finishers were most effectively used at the end of a task, to "polish" and scrutinize the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control. Team workers helped the team to gel, using their versatility to identify the work required and complete it on behalf of the team. Challenging individuals, known as Shapers, provided the necessary drive to ensure that the team kept moving and did not lose focus or momentum.

Whilst some Team Roles were more "high profile" and some team members shouted more loudly than others, each of the behaviors was essential in getting the team successfully from start to finish. The key was balance. For example, Meredith Belbin found that a team with no Plant struggled to come up with the initial spark of an idea with which to push forward. However, once too many Plants were in the team, bad ideas concealed good ones and non-starters were given too much airtime. Similarly, with no Shaper, the team ambled along without drive and direction, missing deadlines. With too many Shapers, in-fighting began and morale was lowered.

As well as the strength or contribution they provided, each Team Role was also found to have an "allowable weakness": a flipside of the behavioural characteristics, which is allowable in the team because of the strength which goes with it. For example, the unorthodox Plant could be forgetful or scatty; or the Resource Investigator might forget to follow up on a lead. Co-coordinators might get over- enthusiastic on the delegation front and Implementers might be slow to relinquish their plans in favour of positive changes. Completer Finishers, often driven by anxiety to get things right, were found to take their perfectionism to extremes. Team workers, concerned with the welfare and morale of the team, found it difficult to make decisions where this morale might be compromised or team politics, involved. Shapers risked becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their attempts to get things done.

It was only after the initial research had been completed that the ninth Team Role, "Specialist" emerged. The simulated management exercises had been deliberately set up to require no previous knowledge. In the real world, however, the value of an individual with in-depth knowledge of a key area came to be recognized as yet another essential team contribution or Team Role. Just like the other Team Roles, the Specialist also had a weakness: a tendency to focus narrowly on their own subject of choice, and to prioritize this over the team's progress.

The Team Roles that Meredith Belbin identified are used widely in thousands of organisations all over the world today. By identifying our Team Roles, we can ensure that we use our strengths to advantage and that we manage our weaknesses as best we can. Sometimes, this means being aware of the pitfalls and making an effort to avoid them.

Most people have a number of "preferred Team Roles" or behaviors they frequently and naturally display. We also have "manageable roles", roles which might not be the most natural course of behavior for us, but which we can assume if required and might wish to cultivate. Lastly, we have least preferred roles, those we should not assume, since we'll be playing against type. In this instance, the effort is likely to be great, and the outcome, poor. If work requires Team Roles other than our own, it is a much better bet to find and work with others who possess roles complementary to our own. Since people tend to display more than one preferred role, a team of four could quite easily represent all nine Belbin Team Roles.

Regards and please have a look at we are making a huge different for many individuals and companies. As soon as our Scrum Master Advanced is ready you will be able to learn a lot more about teams and the roles.

Author: Steen Lerche-Jensen

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