Team spirit can be a good thing but when teams starts to compete internally despite having the same goal then it can be a problem.
During a startup meeting for a new project I suggested to the developers that they could bring code to me for testing in an earlier stage. The developers stood up as one entity and shouted “No! We don´t want you or anyone else to file bug reports on our unfinished code!”. The developers were used to having the development and test teams separate and in a kind of competition; the testers were handed the code after it was “done” and then pointed out the errors the developers had made. To calm the developers down and to stress that I was not looking for improving my statistics I told them: “I will not file any bugs before OR after you have delivered your code unless you first agree to it. I can provide help and value by being involved in an earlier stage supporting you.”. And then there was silence…
Once the confusion has settled the developers decided they were ok with the idea. Shortly after that meeting I started to get frequent visits from the developers with suggestions and requests for help with testing of different parts of the software. After four months I was leaving for another assignment and got the question who would be taking over as test lead after me and I replied: “I’m not test lead, that´s the guy over there.”. The answer was followed by the question “Who is that?”.
If you spot teams building walls against each other putting more effort into preparing for long sieges than working together an intervention might be in place. If the people in the teams are not working well together because they are in different teams then Unteaming the teams might help. By unteaming the development and test team and creating a bigger team the cooperation towards our common goal greatly improved. The actual test lead still had the mindset of his team being separate from the other teams and because of this he became less involved in the combined effort. Since he waited for communication via mail or management he missed out on the opportunity to work more proactive.
My conclusion from this experience is that team building can be good thing but if it is done at the expense of less collaboration between teams then unteaming can make a positive difference.
And I want to send a thank you to Michael Bolton for pushing me to write this post and who helped me with feedback!