Great software teams are hard to define, yet they are very easy to recognize when you see one. There is energy, enthusiasm, excitement and everyone in such a team feels like they are on a mission. Things just get done and software launches feel robust and predictable.
Great, I need a dozen, but how do I create one?
Now that's a really hard question. We've spent a long time building software products and the teams behind them. And have managed to create a reputation for building great teams. So we get asked this question a lot. After answering numerous times at different levels of hand waviness we have come to realize that we can boil it all down to just a single a basic recipe with just two ingredients:
1. Gelling - how close the team members feel to each other and how strong they feel for the whole group.
2. Openness - how easy is it for team members to criticize each other or themselves or voice concerns without worrying about propriety.
The funny things about our recipe is the the exact measures of these ingredients don't matter. The more you have the better things will be!
There are many things you can do to get these ingredients into your team. You will need to experiment and see what works for your team. If you asked us to name just one thing that works (for us), we'd say it must be our:
We arrange events where some kind of group activity is needed. I think it's essential for these events not to have the explicit feeling that it's a "corporate team building" event - that feeling makes the gelling less natural. We try to make the events fun but include some elements that necessitates the group's input.
A classic at Kaz is our yearly trip where the overall planning is left to the team to finalize. This gives the team to come together and work together to create fun for the entire team as well as their families (as families are welcome too in these trips). We intentionally leave some constraints, a shoestring budget is typically the a big one but also there could be others like "ensure that the kids are not bored". These restrictions make the team members think in terms of the whole team which is a big thing for gelling.
Good luck with your team building efforts, but before leaving, here are some pictures from our recent trip to Nepal!