A question recently came up about how to effectively disband a team – and more to the point, what steps to take to ensure a smooth closure of the team and how to help team members adjust if assigned to another team that did not operate according to agile values and principles.

This is a great question. First off, one must pay attention to the "adjourning" phase of the "-orming" cycle. It helps people move on to their next work assignment and gives team members a chance to say "farewell" to each other in a good way.

Bruce Tuckman, professor of Educational Psychology at the Ohio State University and Founding Director of the Walter E. Dennis Learning Center, introduced a model of group development in 1965 which included 4 stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. He later updated the model, in collaboration with Mary Ann Jensen, and added a fifth stage: Adjourning.

“Adjourning… involves the process of "unforming" the group, letting go of the group structure and moving on. Some authors describe this stage as “Deforming and Mourning”, recognizing the sense of loss sometimes felt by team members. Adjourning involves dissolution. It entails the termination of roles, the completion of tasks and reduction of dependency. The process can be stressful, particularly when the dissolution is unplanned.”

One idea to consider includes some combination of a retrospective of the team’s time together - not with continuous improvement in mind but with an appreciative focus of "what do you want to take with you into your next assignment?" Including an "Offer Appreciations" activity in it would enhance this process.

Another idea is to have a celebration or festive-ness at the end (sparkling cider?) – Similar to a wake. You want to allow time for sharing memories and stories about the team’s time together and for team members to identify what each person will take away from their shared experience - ideas, new techniques/learning, relationships - whatever it might be for them. One could include a "Circle of Questions" activity, if the team is smaller than 10 people. Depending on the circumstances and attitudes, you may also need a little time for “healthy” venting.

The facilitator will want to move the team members through examining their past experience together, to making meaning of it (what's worth preserving), to what each will take with them going forward and how they might use what they've learned if they're assigned to non-agile work. In addition, if the team members know, it is good to share where each is going next. Choose activities that move the team members through past experience, present learning, and future plans.