In an article called “The Secrets of Great Teamwork”, published in HBR (June 2016), Haas and Mortensen claim that an enabling condition for successful teamwork is that the team has a strong structure:

High-performing teams include members with a balance of skills. Every individual doesn’t have to possess superlative technical and social skills, but the team overall needs a healthy dose of both.

Harvard Business Review

This is something that I’ve experienced a lot and learned to appreciate. In many cases, however, the different personality and skills are perceived the opposite way, and problems occur accordingly. People are getting on each other’s nerves and team friction appears.

Agile methodologies are not enough

As you probably already know, there are several methodologies that provide a good foundation for effective teamwork, for example Agile, Lean and Kanban. These methodologies are very good, and should be used adapted to the specific conditions of the team.

My experience is, though, that methodology can never replace soft skills, and believe me, I’ve been in projects where we tried – a lot! I think that the first step to improve the soft skills is to start look at each other in a different way.

Different personalities

Many conflicts and lack of cooperation derives from the fact that we simply are different. For example, some people want to move fast, other are slow but thoughtful, some want to take risks while other want to be safe. And so on.

It is good that we have different personalities, since it makes the team stronger.


Next time you get annoyed by a colleague who doesn’t think like you, try to appreciate the other person’s perspective. If you’re fast and tend to take risks, it might be good for you to think everything over once more. If you’re slow and always want to take a safe approach, you might need someone to help you getting forward.

Everybody has both good and bad sides – even you and me! If you’re very good at details, you might not have the best overview of things. Your good sides often come with bad ones.

Good qualities come with bad ones.

Different skills

The same is true for different skills in a team. One teammate might be very experienced within the technologies that the system is built with. Another has worked a lot with newer technologies. Excellent, they complement each other! Let the one who knows new technologies evaluate whether they can be useful, but let the other guy balance it all up to make sure it really applies to the business problem that the system solves.

Make the differences an advantage

So, we should see differences as an advantage instead of getting competitive against each other. It makes the team stronger. Everybody is needed and should be encouraged to contribute as much as they can, bringing out their good sides.

Strive for a complementary team!

As 4D (dynamic, diverse, dispersed, and digital) teams become more and more common, I think that one key to success will be to change the view of each other to complementary instead of competitive!

Read the Harvard article here:


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