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In my organization I realize that at times there are teams that work better in certain combinations of devs (IE: John + Travis have a better dynamic than Dennis + Travis so they result in a faster working team).

I've been tinkering with the idea of finding a way to optimize teams internally but I'm still a bit green so I'm unsure if I'm seeing unrelated patterns.

Has anybody else found inter-team social dynamics impacting the end result of projects in terms of pace, quality, etc.? If otherwise, how much of an impact have you found group dynamics have on your projects?

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  • IBM did a study on this (over 10 years ago) and identified the key individuals whose participation were correlated with successful teams. Alas, I can't provide a citation, but it might be a useful crib for a literature search.
    – MCW
    Oct 3 '16 at 11:06
  • This is where agile scrum methodology really works (in my opinion, it breaks down a bit when you start thinking about management for a very large project with lots of teams). A good scrum master can do a lot to foster a good team dynamic and optimize the happiness (and productivity) of team members.
    – JBiggs
    Dec 14 '16 at 15:18
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Absolutely - in some of my projects team dynamics mattered more than engineers' individual capabilities, and made a big difference to the schedule.

There are all kinds of variables: A might be working well with B, but less so with C, and as a result a Scrum team without C might be more productive. There is some anecdotal correlation to Mayer-Briggs types, and similar cultural background, but it is by no means precise science.

Also, this crosses from project into people management in many ways: it is, to a large extent, the line manager's job to observe collaboration in their group, resolve negative dynamics, and foster positive ones. Again, it is more of an art rather than recipe.

The fact that you are asking the question already shows that you are mindful to this, which is more than many project managers could say. The next step is observing, and following that, doing something like Mayer-Briggs or Insights Discovery. Plus, as Mark Wallace mentions above, there are some people that improve dynamics irrespective of who is around them (some call them the unicorn employee).

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This is where self-organization can really shine. There are a lot of models out there (myers-briggs, roundpegg, etc) that can help you build better teams, but humans are naturally really good at doing this ourselves. Can you give people some control over their team composition to allow people to gravitate toward the teams they'll work best with? Or, if your structure won't allow that, maybe organize some hack-a-thon days or other small events where you do have the ability to let people form their own teams and watch what works and doesn't, then use those observations to inform your team building.

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The human element will always have an impact on your projects, end of the day you still need happy devs to code, and happy engineers to build cabinets, etc. You can certainly plan to have people work together - but the full team dynamic is a lot more important than breaking off into cliques within teams.

Then there is the fact that members may move on, be out sick, get promoted, or stop working well together and now you just hampered your capabilities. To borrow a Scrum-ism: "Build great teams of people, not teams of great people"

As a PM one of your assumed duties is coaching your team members to all contribute to the team effort and working well together to build a tempo and gain momentum, challenge them to break out of their comfort zones to really get in-sync.

A lot of what I said could be subjective, but I believe Project Management is subjective in its application at the end of the day.

I would direct you to read up some on Agile PM'ing and Scrum - a lot of team-centric stuff are identified there.

http://agilemanifesto.org/ https://www.scrumalliance.org/why-scrum/core-scrum-values-roles https://www.scrum.org/About/All-Articles/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1036/Multicultural-Scrum-the-Impact-of-Culture-on-Living-the-Scrum-Values http://www.pmi.org/learning/thought-leadership/series

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