Some characteristics of a great team

Note: Credit for most of this goes to @susannehusebo

  • They start their daily stand ups on time
  • They tend to laugh a lot and have fun
  • Everybody in the team gets to express themselves
  • They correct and edit each other when they go off track
  • They try out new things with appetite. But they are quite willing to admit those things that don’t succeed
  • They often don’t care very much if it looks like they’re working hard
  • They encourage each other to leave on time
  • They talk about “we built” or “we failed”, rather than “I built” or “I failed”
  • They have lunch together, or some other time within work hours where they talk about other things than work
  • They welcome more junior members of the team and enjoy mentoring them
  • They have inside jokes
  • They share responsibility for communicating with outside stakeholders
  • They don’t agree on everything
  • They debate between short term benefits and long term strategy. They reach compromise
  • They question each other on topics like accessibility and inclusivity in design and development
  • When they finish a task they check if they can help someone else finish theirs
  • There’s room in good teams for extroverts and introverts. And those in between.
  • Team members are aware of their needs and communicate those to others
  • I’ve seen some great teams have seriously stubborn people in them. They can be great when the team needs reminding of why they came up with a certain rule: specifically so the team wouldn’t compromise when they’re in a hurry
  • Good teams often fight for independence to make their own decisions
  • They ask “why” a lot
  • They discuss the users of their products every day, and user experience is viewed as everyone’s responsibility
  • If they are remote, they try new ways to make everyone equal, even if it means compromising the experience of those people that are in a shared space
  • They are not dogmatic
  • Testers and designers are included in discussions of estimations and backlog refining
  • They respect agreed decision making structures, but argue their points
  • The people are not too similar to one another. They think about problems from different angles
  • If someone on the team is ill, the others figure out how to get by without that person
  • They have quiet time. In whatever amount is valuable to them
  • They don’t interrupt each other. They take equal turns in speaking
  • They get each other tea/coffee/water
  • They have one-to-one chats with each other to discuss points of agreement or disagreement
  • They know each other’s personal and professional goals and aspirations, and try to support them where possible
  • They are not all equally skilled at everything. But they try to work on things where they can learn
  • When people pair on a task, the less experienced person is usually the “driver”
  • Senior team members ask for advice and feedback from more junior team members
  • They don’t have to give positive feedback every time they give negative feedback
  • They thank each other for favours, for tea, for good ideas, for bad ideas, for observations…
  • They use the products they’re building
  • When someone has an idea, the other team members build on it and add to it
  • They accept that people have “off” days
  • They are generally resilient when it comes to change, including change of direction, goals and vision
  • They can work quickly, but it’s not always crunch time. There’s a sustainable cadence to work
  • They regularly talk about how they work together, and try to improve on that
  • Team members generally know what every other team member is working on, and what kind of issues they’re having
  • They encourage each other to share work early, rather than wait for it to be “perfect”
  • They have some shared values or principles that guide their interactions
  • They try new tools and methods quite easily
  • They might defend each other to people outside the team
  • Before they ask for feedback or reviews from other team members, they read through their own code/work
  • They have time to/they prioritise automating tasks that are not valuable
  • They talk about technical debt, and teach stakeholders about it
  • The work they do feels important
  • They argue
  • They talk about how well they’re doing compared to expectations. If the estimates turn out to be off, that’s not a disaster
  • They take turns dealing with boring or time consuming tasks
  • They are interested in each other personally
  • They talk about problems without talking about people’s characters, rather they focus on the work
  • In meetings they put their phones down or close their laptop lids when they’re listening
  • They have a say in who joins the team
  • They have shortcuts for common communication (like signals for when the conversation is derailing, or when they’re losing focus)
  • They don’t mistake fun for a lack of discipline
  • They consider different communication styles. Meetings are not just held so the loudest speakers are heard the most
  • They care that other team members and stakeholders understand the work they’re doing
  • Documentation is updated whenever errors are spotted, by the person that spots the error
  • Team members feel a shared sense of pride and ownership of their work
  • It’s not ok to notice a problem, and not do something about it, even if it’s not in an individual’s immediate area of responsibility
  • Developers participate in sketching sessions, designers understand how git works
  • Team members reach out to their personal networks to ask for help for other team members
  • Everybody tests
  • Team members let each other try things out even if they think it will fail (sometimes, if constructive)
  • They notice when other team members seem worried or down. They ask about it
  • Everyone knows that it’s ok to be wrong, as the rest of the team have your back
  • Everybody participates in user research
  • Everybody’s involved in pairing or non-solo work
  • They have a shared history and sense of purpose
  • They argue like siblings. Intensely, but when it’s over they’re still teammates
  • There’s an awful lot of trust sloshing around the team. All of that trust has been earned by people doing what they say and looking out for each other
  • Work is criticised. People aren’t
  • No-one is “keeping score”
  • “I don’t know” is not a dirty phrase. “Let’s find out” is an even better one

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