Tag Archives: TMS

A transactive memory system is what allows a team to know who knows what.

Agile and TMS

I have only read the abstract of “The Antecedents and Consequences of Agile Practices: A Multi-Period Empirical Study of Software Teams in Time-Bound Projects” but the title and the abstract were interesting enough to warrant a comment on the blog.

The researchers have studied groups of student as they have worked on a project in three “waves” (iterations?). They found that

project performance does not improve through the use of agile practices alone, but does improve when task variability is high and the project team has a high degree of TMS.

TMS (transactive memory system) on the other hand is a consequence of the use of agile practices. It seems rather circular does it not? High TMS teams perform well in an agile environment which (supposedly) leads to high TMS etc.

As far as I understand the concept, the transactive memory of a team is the joint ability of the team to know who knows or should learn what. If my understanding is complete that would mean that the authors here have found that good, cohesive teams will perform better and that teams who work together will become better teams.

The real nugget in here is perhaps in the Wikipedia article. Read this carefully!

Moreland & Myaskovsky (2000) have shown that transactive memory can be developed without any interaction between teammates. As a substitute to teammates’ communication they used a feedback summarizing team members’ skills in the relevant task and team members’ domains of expertise, which was given to each team member by the researches, before they started performing the task. Although the feedback and the information regarding teammates knowledge was provided by the researches and teammates did not communicate with each other in the encoding stage, a strong transactive memory system was formed and affected positively the team’s performance[17]. The decisive component in the formation of transactive memory is sharing specific information regarding team members’ knowledge and domains of expertise, which is achieved whether by interactions taking place during shared learning, or by any other means of information transformation.

What all this means to me is that

  1. Having good TMS will improve performance in agile teams.
  2. There is a shortcut to good TMS which is to simply produce a list of team members’ main knowledge areas and distribute them in the team.

Does TMS have further consequences? Perhaps it will also affect pair programming or politics? Perhaps you can webbify your TMS support? On a vaguely related note, it might impact who you should recruit to fill a gap in your team.