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Is your team jelled?

Do you work in a team that jell? Then you know the feeling that comes when the team starts to do everything right: solving problems before they even surface, finishing every iteration early, delivering high quality software – while having fun. That feeling is something you will never forget, and you should consider yourself extremely lucky to have experienced it. It’s very uncommon.

One cannot make every team jell. All you can do is provide the basic ingredients and hope for the magic to kick in. All teams in a jelled state have this in common:

  • A jelled team has a specific goal, a goal that is shared by all members.
  • All members of a jelled team have a high sense of responsibility and commitment.
  • All members of a jelled team feel they are accomplishing something of value.
  • All members of a jelled team take interest in each others work, since it’s part of their goal.
  • The members are enjoying themselves. They long to get to work to spend time together while moving the project forward. Laughter is frequent.
  • A jelled team has great communication: with customers, management and in between members.

As a project manager, if your team enters the jelled state you should step back and let the team dynamics do the work. Concentrate on keeping the team jelled, which most of the time is the same as doing nothing at all. Focus on protecting the team from unimportant external interference, and on stuff that boost the team’s confidence and wellbeing.

Appreciation and the sense of completion is very important to keep a team jelled for a long period of time. I once read (don’t remember where) about a team manager that hung a bell in the center of the workplace. The developers were instructed to ring the bell whenever they had done something good. It may sound silly but it’s actually one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard to boost team spirit. Whenever the bell rung people left whatever work they were doing to join the bell ringer and hear about his accomplishments. That team fed appreciation to itself, and provided a constant feeling of accomplishment.

So, how do you know if your team is jelled? Well, one way would be to hang such a bell in a strategic location. If the bell starts ringing on a regular basis chances are good that your team is jelled. If people also leave their workstations to cheer with the happy fellow – then you know for sure.