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Geoff Bellman at ADP West keynote: Extraordinary groups

I’m here at Agile Development Practices West in Las Vegas, once again learning from and chatting with some of our industry’s great leaders. The morning keynote was given by Geoff Bellman, who has written several books about leadership and organizational change. His talk was based on the most recent book he co-authored with Kathleen Ryan titled, Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results.

Bellman questioned the audience, “Why is it that some of the groups work really well and have terrific results and other groups don’t work out at all?” Through their field research, interviewing 60 “extraordinary groups,” Bellman and Ryan discovered eight performance indicators that the groups had in common:

1. Compelling purpose

2. Shared leadership

3. Just-enough structure

4. Full engagement

5. Embracing differences

6. Unexpected learning

7. Strengthened relationships

8. Great results

Bellman had us talk to the people we were sitting next to about extraordinary groups that we’ve participated in ourselves. I had the fun of sitting next to Linda Rising and Chris Shinkle, two presenters at the conference, and learned about extraordinary teams that they’ve been a part of in their careers. Mutual respect, adding value, trust and results were some of the things we felt were important when discussing commonalities in high-performing  teams.

Bellman said it was fairly easy to identify what extraordinary groups had in common, but more difficult to understand why people acted as they did. When they asked the study participants the feelings that resulted from being part of extraordinary groups, the result was over 400 answers. However, they narrowed those into four categories. Being part of such teams left people feeling energized, connected, hopeful and changed.

Though the study only included one software development team, it’s interesting to note that many of the performance indicators are similar to those found on successful Agile teams. How many of the eight performance indicators do you find in your work teams?

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