Team Liftoff

When you rent a flat you sign a contract, when you get married you sign a contract (civil or religious), when you get a job you sign a contract, when a new state is created a constitution is signed.

Contracts specify the norms of conduct, rules of the game, boundaries, what is allowed, what is not allowed, expectations, rights and duties.

But, do you sign a contract when you join a team? Do teams have a constitution?

A lot have been written about project kick-off, but what about team kick-off. What are those minimum agreements that a team must define in order to start in good condition?

This is what I call the Minimum Viable Team (MVT). In the book “Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams and Projects”, Diane Larsen provides great insight on the topic. Also, some years ago, Richard Hackman in his book “Leading Teams” suggests that a proper team launch has an impact of 30% on the overall performance of a team.

In my previous experience as Manager and currently as Coach I can tell that most conflict in teams is caused by not having a minimum set of norms, agreements or responsibility definitions, although most organizations consistently ignore it and blame individuals or human behavior instead.

What is a Team Launch or Team Liftoff? – “Go slow to go fast” – Japanese Proverb

Team launch is the process of setting the foundations for successful team development. Team launch is not a project kick off, although it can be included as part of it.

It is a session that can take one day, half day or be distributed along different weeks.

Every author have different approaches, but there are several things in common, which have been demonstrated to have a strong impact on team performance:

  • Working Agreements (AKA Social Contract or Norms of Conduct)
  • Vision, Mission and Goals
  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Boundaries and information flows with the environment
For instance, as a result of a Team Launch exercise you could be generating a Team Charter like the following one:
Team Charter

Why is Team Launch important? – “The team that gets off to a good start wins pennants” – John McGraw
  • Richard Hackman in his books “Leading Teams” and “Collaborative Intelligence” mentions that team launch has an impact of 30% in the performance of a team.
  • You might be thinking, why not start working right away and let the team jell? Well, why not setting basic conditions for team performance from start, instead? When you plant a seed, do you throw it to a flowerpot with waste soil or do you make sure it has new soil, fresh water and adequate sun and ventilation?
  • If a team is struggling to perform maybe what is needed is a retroactive relaunch, because probably the basics are not even in place.
  • Nowadays, teams are formed by people from many diverse background and views of the world. Every individual has different mental scripts on how a team should be working, everyone has different ideals of team. Team launch allows those different views of the world to be visible, and begin to converge.
Benefits of Team Launch? – “The beginning is the most important part of the work” – Plato
  • Achieves alignment, builds momentum and clarifies roles.
  • Avoid unnecessary discussions and let team focus on delivering value.
  • Avoid unnecessary conflict by making expectations, assumptions, beliefs and ideas visible from the beginning.
  • Start creating a sense of belonging.
  • Start creating some bonding.
  • Collaborative effort starts earlier.
  • If you need more detail on how to do it you can read the books I cite, or better call me! 🙂
  • Before project starts
  • Retroactively when teams are unable to perform. This is what we call a re-launch
  • This works for most teams.
  • You will need a facilitator and/or coach for the session, all team members and depending on the context other parties involved, such as stakeholders or managers.

Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting.

3 thoughts on “Team Liftoff

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