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Only You Can Prevent “Teamicide”

August 12, 2009

If the goal of implementing agile project management is to boost productivity and yield highly performing teams, then the last thing a manager or Product Owner should do in that environment is stand in the way. And yet, this article on InfoQ describes how managers—out of intimidation, confusion, or both—have a tendency to undermine their best teams. Authors Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister have dubbed this phenomenon “teamicide” and Steven Denning, who has been writing on high-performance teams for InfoQ of late, offers two common management attitudes that can kill a great team:

  • “Sometimes it’s murder—death by intent to kill: high-performance teams often achieve what they achieve by breaking the rules of the prevailing corporate culture. Managers can feel threatened and so they disband them, in order to preserve the status quo.”
  • “Sometimes it’s manslaughter—death by negligence: the management doesn’t understand the high-performance team or its mode of operation and so it does things that unintentionally eliminate high-performance, e.g. moving members of a high-performance team to other teams, ostensibly with the goal of creating more high performance teams but typically with the result of eliminating any high performance.”

Have any of you experienced the scenarios described above? I’d be curious to hear if many of you readers have experienced “teamicide” at your organization. And, lest we end on such a negative note, be sure to check out the end of the InfoQ article, which concludes with some great tips from Ominlab Media’s Stefan Gillard for finding individuals who will likely contribute to a high-performance team.

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One Response to “Only You Can Prevent “Teamicide””

  1. Charles on August 3rd, 2011 11:34 pm

    I really like that term: “teamicide” – Might need to use that some day, but hopefully not.

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