Achieving this goal is necessary to make an organisation a healthy player in the long run in the context of today tough business world.
Here are the first questions that come on my mind when attempting to assess the "collective intelligence" of a group:
- how efficient is the communication among members?
- how does the group react and self-reorganize when the environment (management staff, client requirements, several new members) suddenly changes?
- how proactively does it think and act?
- how well it is learning based on experience?
These questions are voluntarely open. I personally try to wonder on a regular basis what the next important axis is that should be worked on in my team. And then, how? What is the next step?
At this point, I usually get plenty of extremely worthy ideas from books, articles and blogs, that need to be sorted out, and adapted to the specific case of my team.
Take the first question for instance : the communication within the team could be highly improved by sharing and understanding each other mental models; a first concrete action could be to brainstrom on what can be done there, and then for example schedule a 2-hour session after lunch where each member tell others about his own background, stregnths, weakness and motivations. This is a very good start to build a strong team spirit, I can attest! But the fact is that this is only a single action in the right direction, and all its benefits should ideally be reinvested in another action, in order not to be forgotten.
It is now common sense that a fundamental role of every leader in a knowledge organisation lies in making his team value greater than the sum of its individual parts.
However, it is not so common to understand that each indivdual member takes an active part in the game, by generating a continous flow of positive or negative impacts in daily activities.
The more I am thinking about it, the more I am convinced that a software team is worth to be considered as an intelligent living organism, whose purpose is to transform a business need in a solution.
Its arms are :
- raw technical abilities (languages, products, design principles)
- capacity for innovation
- daily organisation
- collective intelligence (above)
I would suggest the reading of the excellent Kaizen article, and change every words "personal" to "collective". To paraphrase the article, "Kaizen" is a japanese management strategy, that we could translate to "continuous slow improvement". I am confident that works for mastering personal life ; what not transposing it to human groups?
Indeed, the work to improvement is so huge and endless, that the only way teams can efficiently handle it is by collectively working one tactic of improvement at a time, make it an habit, before moving to the next tactic.
The article also points out that the concept of de-wasting is another very important aspect of Kaizen. This principle should be applied at every level of the group activity, as advocated by the excellent De-Waste blog of one of my friends and current co-workers.
Don't you think a team owns more accurate information than external managers for taking responsability about their inner organisation? This does not mean that managers are not useful anymore, nor does it mean that a team should not have leaders; it means that any team should be aware that it has most of the keys at hand for getting to the next stage in the path of improvement.
I am convinced that the only secure way to fully realize a team potential is by working on one single small objective at a time, every week.