What makes teams high performing?

You can craft a high-performance team. I found a model that speaks to what makes teams high-performing. If you think of the best products that you love and use every day, the reason you love and use those products is that there is a team of people behind that product. Team dynamics affect the products created in software development. A high-performing team starts with expectations and defining success.

Pygmalion Effect and the Nascar Pit Crew

The Pygmalion effect illustrates that high expectations from leaders can result in better performance by contributors. When you are on a team, you want to know what makes up success. What behaviors would be worth trying that would lead you to that state? Sports are one of the most visible forms of teamwork. There are parallels between the teamwork of sports teams and software development teams. If we remove the ambiguity in our work processes we can better help our teams to become high performers. A Nascar pit crew is an example of a high-performing team.

In the video, the pit crew replaces the tires of the racecar in a matter of seconds. Every member has a distinct responsibility. They are primed and ready to act. Once the racecar slides into the pit, the team is frantic yet focused. The racecar drives off. A well-tuned pit crew is essential to the racecar driver’s success. We might think the software product is the only factor in driving success. We seek to improve to provide more value to our customers by improving the entire software development process.

The Rocket Model

I stumbled upon this book Ignition: A Guide to Building High-Performing Teams. Most of the content is reasonable and direct to take teams to a new level. It opens up with this fantastic model from the companion website.

High Performance Model

The benefit of this model is that it gives you areas to focus on with your team. Where do you perceive the gap to be in your processes and communication? Reflect with your team. How do we work together? How does it compare with a high-performing team?

Heist Movie

Now imagine a heist movie. A team unites with unique skills to overcome a challenge. Each has a unique ability they ability to the problem. They overcome intra-team conflict, unforeseen challenges, and succeed together.

  • Purpose
    • What is causing this team to unite?
  • People
    • Do you have all the right people in the proper positions?
  • Plan
    • Can the team come together to craft the plan together?
  • Problems
    • How does the team overcome unforeseen challenges and modify the approach?

What is the opposite of success? A heist movie I would not want to watch might look familiar to you. A team of people unites on an unclear purpose. Team members are convinced, they are great at the talents they’re not. A plan forms with little input from all members. The team cannot agree on what they want to achieve. In the end, they walk away torn apart by strife, confusion, and frustration.


I love the feeling of working on a team of specialists unified on a singular goal and operating at peak performance. It feels great to see the finished product when everyone is executing at the best of their abilities. Who would not want to achieve this type of mastery at their craft?

  • If you want to work with a high-performing team, start setting an expectation of high standards.
  • Review the rocket model and think about what is preventing your team from reaching the next level.
  • Picture your team like a heist movie and make sure you have the right purpose, people, plan in place to solve the problems.