Minimize Team Churn

One behavior pattern I have observed in traditional management structures is the idea that human beings are essentially replaceable parts. You take one cog in the machine and if its about the right size you can jam it somewhere else to make the system move faster.

The reality is mucforming-storming-tuckman-modelh different. Even the smallest change to a team’s dynamic can have an impact on velocity and chances are that impact will be negative, at least initially. We’ve all hear the phrase forming, storming, norming…and—hopefully—performing. There is a lot of truth to this colloquialism but, unfortunately, the idea is only applied when an entire team is formed not when it’s changed.

I argue that the evidence shows that even the smallest change to a team will alter the team dynamic and will restart this cycle. How quickly a team can recover and achieve the ‘performing’ part of the quip depends on such an astronomical number of conditions that it is insanely hard to predict what will happen. What’s safe to assume is that it won’t be an improvement, at least initially.

However, even against this reality, we see project managers eager to move people between teams when pressures from above demand higher velocity. Amazingly there is little consideration to the impact on the team and immediate improvement in velocity is expected and integrated into ‘the plan’. This form of self-deception is actually one of the most egregious kind.

So, please, pretty please—with a cherry on top—think twice before swapping resources between teams.

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