The more I learn through experience and the literature, the more I begin to think that as an industry we have been missing the mark by focusing so much on process and methodology at the expense of developing and empowering cross-functional teams to decide and then do what they need to do to deliver success; acknowledging that different projects may need to be tackled in different ways.

To be fair, some of the Agile methodologies provide a framework that is supportive of the cross-functional team, but even those methodologies, when used exclusively, run the risk of becoming rigid and regimented over time.

In any case, during the past few weeks I’ve been studying team dynamics and what makes them successful. During that time, I’ve come across a couple interesting books that I’d like to bring to your attention.

First, I really enjoyed Ellen Gottesdiener’s Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Needs because it brings home the importance of the analyst’s role as facilitator in creating a collaborative environment. Some of my favorite quotes from the book are:

Collaboration occurs when all members of a group or team share a common purpose, there’s mutual trust, and everyone uses agreed-upon approaches for the work. The members operate like a jazz ensemble: multiple voices interwoven, playing together and individually, generously and inventively, sharing a single theme. … Collaboration doesn’t just happen; teams don’t just form and jell automatically. Rather, collaboration must be engineered into a team’s work.

and –

Requirements workshops are based on the premise that a small group of knowledgeable, motivated people is more effective than one or two development “heroes.” They’re also based on the premise that, as Jerry Weinberg said, “One of us is not as smart as all of us.”

In addition to group collaboration/workshop aspects, Gottesdiener also expounds on patterns and models for communicating requirements, which I found very helpful, but won’t detail here.

Interestingly, it was a “tweet” from Ellen (@ellengott) that led me to a blog post by The Hacker Chick that piqued my interest in  the book Beautiful Teams by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene (what did we ever do before social media?). It’s a collection of interviews and short essays from accomplished leaders and innovators various team-related topics. Most who read this blog will recognize the names of contributors such as  Grady Booch, Mike Cohn, Steve McConnell, Karl Wiegers, Scott Ambler, Johanna Rothman and others.

Stellman and Greene have posted a teaser from their Tim O’Reilly interview from the book entitled “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” on their blog.  I am just getting started reading Beautiful Teams, so I can’t say much more about it yet, but  it does come highly recommended and seems really good so far. Go have a look at the blog post and see what you think. I’ll post more of my thoughts on the book once I’ve finished it.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the merits and tradeoffs of empowering teams to apply good practices in their own way vs. establishing an exclusive (but repeatable and familiar) delivery process/methodology?

What recommendations do you have on other good teamwork and collaboration literature?