Agile/Scrum blog

Groups & Scrum: Productive teams

Stephan van Rooden Door: Stephan van Rooden,  03-06-2014
Onderwerp: Agile Teams  Groups  High Performing Teams  Scrum  

In the previous blog, I talked about the importance of setting goals and what to focus on when trying to reach goals. How is setting goals related to productivity? When you stroll across the web on the topic of Scrum you will most likely run into the term ‘Hyper Productive Scrum Teams’. This sounds really nice and would most likely appeal to most people who consider adopting the Scrum framework. However, a hyper productive team can deliver no value at all ….but at hyper speed. And that’s where goals come into play.

Extensive research has been done on the correlation between goals and productivity. To be more specific, the alignment between organizational goals and team goals versus a team’s productivity. An important factor here is the group cohesiveness.


Cohesion is more or less the glue that keeps a team together. Like described in the first post of this series, each individual in a group has the feeling they are part of this group. Cohesion are those forces that make sure people want to stay with this group. There a couple of factors that increases cohesion. First, the effort people have to go through to become a member of the group. A very nice example is the means someone has to go through to become part of a fraternity. Becoming a member takes quite some effort and results in a group membership for life. Second, external threats can increase the cohesion in a group. Like stated earlier, being part of a group provides a sense of security against external threats. Third, smaller groups then to be more cohesive then larger groups.


The relationship between goal alignment and cohesion on productivity can be found on the image below.

Obviously productivity increases when group cohesion is high and the goal of the group is aligned with organizational goals. More interesting is that a group with a lot of cohesion but the alignment between their goal and the goal of the organization is low results in a decrease of productivity.

This is very interesting but also perfectly explainable. Imagine a team working on a legacy application. They have been working together for years and now everything there is to know about this application. They only need a couple of words to explain to their team members what needs to be done. But this legacy application is going to be decommissioned in a couple of months. Image what this does to the team, cohesion will probably increase (because of external threat) but their motivation will most likely decrease. What are we doing this for anyway?

So having a stable team that consider themselves to be a group and have strong cohesion, with a clear goal that is aligned with the rest of the organizational goals (in my opinion this might also be for customer goals) enables them to be very productive. However, essential is this case is that the goals the team pursues are represented by a product backlog ordered on maximizing value added for customers (or clients or users).

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