One of the most interesting forms of behavior in the insect world has come to be known, in the words of animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley, as “honeybee democracy.” To outside observers like us, a swarm of bees functions so much like a group that we don’t realize the disagreement and vigorous debate among the bees every year as they search for a new home for their hive and queen.
Even though team members don’t always agree with each other, it’s important to present a picture of team unity—just like one sees in bee colonies—to various project stakeholders. No matter how much debate or disagreement happens in your team, it’s important to strike a balance. The group must speak with one voice to the outside world.
The problem is, some teams forget this rule. When that happens, a variety of stakeholders—managers and company clients, among them—will learn about conflicts that should’ve been left in the conference room. Don’t bring your team’s dirty laundry to the table. Even if the project is a terrific success, the impression of team disagreement could still undermine your client’s confidence.
Debate is a necessary part of every team’s function but keep it inside the team. A fundamental principle of the Agile philosophy is agreement. Don’t finalize a major decision point that doesn’t reflect team consensus or else, in terms of bees, some team members whose views were ignored are bound to get stung.
- Don’t contradict fellow team members publicly
- Be accountable and responsible as a team for all decisions and results
- Encourage team transparency but use discretion with outside stakeholders
- Achieve consensus about how team results should be communicated to stakeholders