Team with 5 members are working happy together

Litmus test for team spirit

Team spirit is much more …

… than the absence of conflicts.

It is the essential element of what makes a successful team. I heard a saying, but don’t know the origin. „A team is only as strong as its team spirit“. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

But when is a team successful?

A coprehensive answer can’t hardly be given in just one short sentence as there are lots of factors that describe success. But one thing is clear to me: it is not only the achievement of the goal, but the journey we undertake when striving to achieve our goals. In the end, it takes a team that is happy about the success and strives with full motivation to achieve the next goal.

How would I describe success within Scrum?

Well, first of all it’s important that the sprint plans are largely implemented „as a rule“. The target achievement level must be right. If a team always achieves less than 50% of the Sprint plan on average, that can’t be called a success, can it? On the other hand, a continuous 100% target achievement would be unrealistic, as the saying goes: „A plan is a plan is a plan.“

I would consider it a success if a team implements its sprint plans with an average deviation of less than 20%.

A target achievement level alone is not enough

The way the target is achieved is just as important. Achieving the goal can quietly be a challenge, but it should be doable. If a team has to work itself up regularly to achieve the goal, this would quickly lead to exhaustion, demotivation and a bad mood, and thus sooner or later inevitably to failure.

So we take into account that the mood in the team is also an important factor for good team spirit. It must be fun to achieve one goal after the other. It must be fun to fight for it together. It must be fun to celebrate successes together.

You can’t measure team spirit, but you can see and feel it. Outsiders can often see it, but only the team members themselves can feel it.

Oxford Language describes team spirit as

Sense of togetherness, partnership, comradery
behavior within a group, a team.

What we can do? First define what success is. Just as team spirit is far more than the mere absence of conflict, true success is much more than the absence of failure. Some output is always generated, but is this already a success? Is low output already to be considered a success?

The Litmus test for Teamspirit

In a team where there is trust, communication is open, honest and direct. No one has to be afraid of being scolded, laughed at or belittled because of what is said. Mistakes can be admitted openly and honestly. Everyone can ask for help and admit that they can’t do something.

In a team where there is team spirit, the differences of each team member are accepted and appreciated. The weaknesses of one are balanced by the strengths of the other. Of course, this requires confidence in being able to admit one’s weaknesses.

Patrick Lencioni writes in his book „The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team“ that teams that lack trust are unable to engage in unfiltered and passionate discussion of ideas. Instead, veiled discussions and guarded comments occur. I echo this sentiment.

Recommendation for action: Observe meetings in which topics are discussed where you  expect to be differences of opinion. It is unlikely that a team of more than 6 people would always agree. Are there also controversial discussions or is the exchange more reserved? Are there one or two mood setters in the team – strong alphas – whose opinion is almost always the deciding factor? Are there, to put it bluntly, many „sheep“ in the team who always just listen and bleat „yes“?

The communication behavior of a team can not be determined from the course of a single meeting. It takes several, if not many, meetings to get a reasonably well-founded impression. Fortunately, agile product development has quite a few events, so it shouldn’t take too long to get a feel for this.

Nevertheless: A certain knowledge of human nature is needed!

Real team spirit – has quite other characteristics, such as mutual helpfulness, laughing together and celebrating successes, etc. However, the other characteristics for the presence of team spirit shall be dealt with elsewhere.


If you think everything is fine, you don’t need to worry about team spirit. Those who are satisfied with the output of their team(s) don’t need to waste their time thinking about team spirit. However, those who are stimulated by this blog to think more deeply about the connection between team spirit and output may have surprisingly positive experiences.

Desire to grow with team spirit and greater output?

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