Archive for category Leadership
Changes towards better is what most of organization are seeking for.
We often hear that Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches are referred as “change agents”. It is important to understand it is much more challenging and required for those “shoes” to master change management than e.g. change managed by supervisor.
I like word “Improvement” more, however…. Maybe this post helps to explain why…
There is difference in the way change is accepted by teams in case it is:
- Originated / introduced by management – these changes are often seen as “enforced” rather than owned. When communicated fully, transparently and explained these changes are followed / implemented usually
- Emerged from self-organizing teams – these are changes that are owned by teams. Therefore, level of involvement, contribution and ownership to the success is much higher.
So, what are the magic ingredients to make improvement happen? And what is required for it to have positive effect?
Set the Goal
In terms of Agile this means understanding the lack of fit of something. This is essential. Without exploring lack and creating shared understanding and contribution towards Goal nothing will happen.
After exploring the lack convert problem into goal. Keep in mind this is pivotal point as goals usually seen as something positive (unlike problems).
Clarity about goal is essential. When this is unclear people best case not “buying in” and worst case confronting change or acting ”passive-aggressive”.
Key question here is: and what do we want to achieve instead?
This is very delicate one. Language and transparency is very important. Humans do not like changes. Do not communicate problems or that “we are changing”, communicate goals or that “we are improving X” instead. You will be facing much more resistance otherwise.
Reason is problem sends out “we are bad” and creates frustration, while goal sends out “we are improving gradually” and creates motivation.
Example: there are people that do not like to “play according to the rules”. Proven by practice that you will face huge resistance from those “Mavericks” if you will name your change, let’s say “switching to Scrum” because this could be interpreted as “what you had here is bad”, vs. “Improve the way we work” with post-factum acknowledging that aha, btw it looks pretty much like Scrum.
At the same time communication is important as when changes are implemented subtly you will face much more resistance, resulting from lack of transparency and comfort leading to many false assumptions.
No changes are done forever. We do series of experiments to see what works, what works better… We inspect and Adapt and practice constantly. It is important to cultivate mindset of constant experimenting and improvement. Then change will not be something negative, rather permanent positive state (Kaizen).
Constant experimentation also requires measurement and validation. This is another important aspect that is sometimes neglected.
Get opinion of people that will stand with you when improvement is being implemented. Present it in terms of their benefit. Get them on your side.
At the same time, you will unavoidably face some resistance. It usually comes from the fact that some team members either afraid of change (they think to “loose” something or end up with less comfort, etc.…). You need to manage this resistance.
According to studies resistance is consequence of brain that protects us against dangers and tries to maximize our satisfaction (Minimize Danger and Maximize Reward). One should therefore take this into consideration to manage these basic social needs (known as SCARF model
This is fundamental. Not just rely on ally, … Involve. People embrace changes much easier when they contributed towards ideas, participated, asked for opinions and feel part of. Easiest way to convert potential opponents into allies is to involve them into getting it done.
But most important is that involvement creates empowerment that not only reduces resistance but raises awareness, creates feeling of a team, improves collaboration and as result amplifies possible success of the change.
Change requires energy, think of it as of a ladder that needs to be “climbed”. No one likes changing for changing. “Prize” must be bigger than “price” to pay for “climbing up”. Therefore, it is more likely you will succeed with smaller and singular changes at a time.
Start with small/local experiments. This way you will be able to prove your theories better and get more motivation for scaling up.
And scope changes the way teams are capable to achieve. In other words, meet people and teams where they are, not where you want them to be. Take into account things such as: business constraints, people capabilities, current situation, motivation of people, etc..
Think of short-term wins, those are indispensable to “feed” motivation for changing further…
I have summarized all above in Agile-like Lean Improvement Manifesto:
Lean Improvement Manifesto:
- Emergent Improvement over change as a goal
- Small Creative Experiments over “big bang” theories
- Getting Involved Early over following change late
- Empowered Co-Ideation over top-down pushed decision
- David Rock, SCARF Model – Influencing Others with Dr David Rock, 8. Aug 2010.
see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isiSOeMVJQk (8 min:16 sec)
- David Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, HarperBusiness, Okt 2009.
Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth.
To me, the function and duty of a quality human being
is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.
Working as active Scrum Practitioner for almost 9+ years I have come up with my understanding of what is Scrum Master’s role, service to the team and key responsibilities. Earlier I have written about what Scrum Master should master, here I would like to concentrate on 8 Key Aspects of Scrum Master work. Focus areas so to say. Here those are….
- Facilitates Sprint Planning Meeting
- Facilitates Sprint Review Meeting
- Facilitates Backlog Refinement (aka Grooming) Meeting
- Facilitates Sprint Retrospective Meeting
- Facilitates Daily Scrum
- Facilitates Release / Roadmap Planning Sessions
- Facilitates whatever/whenever else Team and/or stakeholders communication is required to be facilitated (not about any collaboration)
Purpose: to improve shared task clarity, planning, bring in more transparency over status quo for team to see where do they stand (and plan to go, and what have they achieved and how they want to improve) and their work results, help team to be able to enhance communication and perform their daily work
- Cultivates “us” vs. “me” culture and mindset
- Enables and fosters team to self-organize
- Helps team to make decisions
- Supports team through stages of its development
- Coaches individual team members on communication, collaboration and teamwork when necessary
- Increases “bandwidth” of communication among team members
- Observes team and talks to every single team member
- When required does one-on-ones to help through raising conflicts
- Navigates conflicts (involves management when necessary)
Purpose: to build up better team => better understanding each other => improved collaboration among team members => improved team performance
- Guards team agreements, decisions and process (e.g. retrospective decisions, agreed “howtos”, DoD, DoR, review process, etc)
- Make team stick to its agreements, drives teamwork and respect towards owning decisions, leading to performance improvements
- Keeps balance between fulfilling business (Product Owner) needs and maintaining team sustainable pace, so that business needs are addressed by PO requests while team development and pace is not forgotten.
- Makes sure environment is as Team empowering as possible. Empowerment raises team feeling of ownership that rises up dedication and servers to better results
- Helps the team and Product Owner to maintain their artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog, task and action boards, sprint/release burndown charts, tickets comments, story maps, etc.)
Purpose: create and maintain environment where high demand is possible. Here is why that is important
Impediment “Fisher” & Resolver
- Creates environment for effective impediment “fishing” and removal. Cultivates transparency and information radiation as pre-requisite for impediment clarity and removal
- Enables team to respond to impediments
- Raises awareness of team’s impediments
- Coaches team in resolving impediments (the one’s that could be solved by team)
- Helps team to discover new impediments (wastes). Constantly questions the status-quo
- Helps to resolve impediments / take ownership of those cannot be solved within / by team
- Improves efficiency of the team by helping with eliminating impediments
- Escalates and follows up on impediments to where they belong
“High Focus” Promoter
- Shields team from external interferences (extra tasks, todos not agreed with Product Owner, etc)
- Enables team to concentrate on most important todos, achieving “state of flow” and high concentration.
- Helps to avoid wastes caused by context-switching and to avoid team member burn-outs
- Gardens team’s sustainable pace, so that combined with “empowered” environment of high demand is possible
- Increases feeling of “urgency” and highlights how much is left to achieve (e.g. tickets, story tasks, story points, etc.), e.g. with the help of burndown charts, tickets left, etc.
- Helps team to focus on regularly achieving small thing to create feeling of fulfillment and good progress
Motivator and Coach
- Promotes positive thinking, open, honest and respectful feedback culture
- Motivates team to improve team productivity regularly
- Helps to raise team morale, to increase dedication and to improve team deliverables
- Helps to create feeling of achievement
- Creates environment of excellence and continuous improvement (and mindset of seeking for improvements)
- Creates mindset of “quality first”, intolerance to poor quality and continuous improvement
- Regularly takes care of team’s “happiness” (and involves management when necessary)
- Coaches and teaches required mindset, frameworks and engineering practices (Lean thinking, Scrum, Kanban, XP, pair programming, continuous integration, test automation, etc.)
- Teaches and integrates new team members into working process and agreements (and into the team)
- Serves as agent for change and positive challenger of the team
- Reflects integrity and leads by example (e.g. being on time, continuously self-improving, sticking to agreements, etc.…)
- Reflects Lean thinking and Agile principles to the team
- Reflects on reality and promotes transparency on status-quo to question
- Makes things measurable where applicable and possible to illustrate team progress: brings transparency about what is done, how much is achieved, so that weaknesses are easier to identify and potential improvements are easier to see
- Helps team to radiate information (e.g. burndowa, burnup charts, impediment boards, hapiness matrix, knowledge matrix, peerwork matris, etc.)
- Introduces required measurements for team to see regularly its work results (e.g. tickets achieved, stories done, story points achieved, bugs popped up/fixed, retrospective decisions implemented, ..)
- Uses collected data to think and question team and act if required
Agileist: outside of Scrum Team
- Shares Agile/Lean mindset within organization
- Shares best practices and tools, so that other Scrum Masters can benefit / see different perspective of managing things and company can benefit from enriched toolbox of methods and practices
- Collaborates and helps other Stakeholders to learn how their requests could be fulfilled with the team doing Scrum (or Kanban), so that other Stakeholders could get their requests address while team’ pace is also protected
- Helps to improve organization by creating learning organization
- Helps to address organization’s impediments
Last and not least there are many other things that do not belong to this structure. Those are dependent on situation and circumstances. And those are still handled by great Scrum Masters 🙂
I always wanted to come up with the collection of my favorite” Teaming Up” Retrospectives, those that allow to build up steel-strong teams, increase connection bandwidth between team members and increase motivation on teamwork. So here is it…
Check in before you start…
To start building up a team you need to cultivate Trust among team members. This is foundation you have to establish, otherwise open talk is impossible. One of the best way to check in for Teaming up retrospectives is to offer one of those statements to the team and ask each team member to reflect on Teamwork clearly with the statement like “What is in that for us?” or “How do you understand that?” or “Why you think this is important for us as a team?”
Here are some examples of statements you can use to ask these questions:
1. Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
2. At the end of an iteration everyone knows so much more. Naturally we will discover decisions and actions we wish we could do over. This is wisdom to be celebrated, not judgement used to embarrass or de-motivate.
3. Team is a partnership of unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.
- Coming together is a beginning;
- Keeping together is progress;
- Working together is success.
Then I would suggest to move to one of the following exercises …
Exercise 1: My Personal Poster (shorten the distance between us)!
When: with new team / getting to know each other, helping to build up personal connections.
Heads up: may be touchy-feely to some team members (especially shy ones). Make sure people do not feel uncomfortable “revealing” their personal.
Script: We are going to get to know ourselves better! Opening yourself creates relationships!
Please fill in the following template and prepare poster of your life and share it with the colleagues 🙂
- My Name
- 3-4 facts on my personal
- Decisive (crucial) events in my life up to know that influenced who I am most:
- (Could draw timeline of your life with some important data you are willing to share)
- What do I do in my spare time (hobbies, activities)
- What are my personal strengths?
- What are my personal weaknesses (might be tough one)?
- What has been a source of pleasure for me today?
- What kind of secret about myself am I willing to reveal to you?
As soon as poster is ready team members take turn to tell their “Stories” followed by team questions. Aim is to learn as much as possible about team member to understand his/her past and what makes him/her acting in a certain way.
Exercise 2: Cool/Uncool Team member (to share what we want / want to avoid)
When: when you sense team starts having some issues with the “norms” or unspoken “rules” (with the aim to have
Heads up: Make sure it is not turned into personal “blaming” session.
Script: We are going to develop ongoing guide for desired and undesired team behavior .
Please imagine two hypothetical team members (no real persons and names are allowed):
- Cool guy, team member of my dream 🙂
- Uncool guy, team member I would not like to work with 😦
Describe what each of those hypothetical characters does, how behaves one treat/behavior pattern per sticky note that are important for you. Mark positive ones with (+) and negative ones with (-). Prepare to share and discuss with colleagues. Perhaps clustering similar topics and prioritizing would help. I did this excerscize for many teams, – some were discrubing their team without names, others – went quite abstract.
If discussion is held too abstract ask team: “Do we have similar issues?”, “Which ones?”
Exercise 3: Team Matrix (to share openly how do we feel and want to change)
When: there is need to share how does each team member feels him/herself in a team and about teamwork.
Heads up: create safe environment! Make sure no accusation happen.
Script: Please prepare your answers for the following questions (one per sticky note):
- How do I feel myself in the team?
- How I would like to change it?
- How I would like that person X changes certain behavior (how do I feel)?
- If X changes that what do I offer in return?
- How I am ready to help my team?
RULE: no accusations expressed as wishes!
Write those questions on the whiteboard on the left while put team members names on the top, to form matrix. Offer each team member to fill his column, explaining his position followed up by an open discussion.
Exercise 4: Brilliant moments (to learn from our positive past)
When: when there is need for a team to appreciate their positive past and learn from their great moments.
Heads up: n/a
Script: We are going to examine what moments of the past we would like to repeat and how make them influence our team positively and stronger!
Split team in pairs and ask them to interview each other. Prepare interview template and hand over (see below). Ask interviewer to fill it during Interview. First ask to execute only part 1:
- Your brilliant moment: ask to describe certain situation when something really worked in recent past, that team member considers as achievement.
- Why was this moment so brilliant? What was so special on this brilliant moment for her/him?
- What else?
Then ask pairs to switch roles and redo Part 1 for other team member.
Afterwards ask each of interviewers to write down what they have learned about their pair also filling Part 2:
- Because of what you have just said, it appears to me that you are someone who is / has / can….
Then again ask to share findings with pair and think together to answer part 3:
- If these strengths would play a larger role in your work life, what would you notice?
- What else?
- What little things could their colleagues might notice?
- Some small actions that she/he might try in the next days?
Then let everyone tell the story of team member they have interviewed to entire group. Then let open discussion, sharing findings and decisions.
Exercise 5: Our Personal Communication Style (to learn how we are communicating)
When: with new team / getting to know each other, helping to learn their similarities / differences in communication style.
Heads up: n/a
Script: We are going to experience how we like to communicate and in what way it is better to approach certain team
Brainwriting exercise: My communication style (underline what is more relevant to you)
- Do I prefer read or listen?
- Am I fan of short statements or do I prefer long reports?
- Do I want long meetings every month or prefer short meetings more often?
- Do I like to know entire story, every single bit, or do I want to know just the headline (big picture)?
- Is it sufficient someone says something to me once or do I have to be reminded several times until I notice?
Brainwriting exercise: colleagues communication style (underline what is more relevant to your colleague)
NOTE: split in pairs or consider colleague sitting left/right to you
- Does my colleague prefer read or listen?
- Is she/he I fan of short statements or prefers long reports?
- Does he/she want long meetings every month or prefers short meetings more often?
- Does she/he like to know entire story, every single bit, or wants to know just the headline (big picture)?
- Is it sufficient someone says something to me once or do I have to be reminded several times until I notice?
- Is my colleague totally focused on his work and therefore unapproachable or he is someone who is more team oriented and more pleasant and social?
The exercise is to guess which team member prefers what and learn from those diverse preferences.
Exercise 6: appreciation game (to flourish energy of team members)
When: to help team show appreciation to each other and provide constructive feedback
Script: We are going to thank each other for certain things.
Create half circle of chairs. Place another chair on the other side facing the rest. Ask team for trust and respect, honesty and attention.
To start, ask one person to volunteer to be in the ‘Main Chair’. Other members take turns, to say things they liked about the ‘Main Chair’ person help to the team. Following statement might be used:
- “You really helped team when.. and when..” ( 2 statements) followed by
- “What would be great to have more is….”( 1 statement)
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power
Some may think Scrum Master is an easy job to do and is just about facilitation. That is so wrong. It is very important for Scrum Master to master himself , and many challenging situations:) And here are some “traps” scrum master may fall in I would like to show some ways out.
So, here is collection of my favorite tips for Scrum Masters …
Fight an attempt to take sides. This is hard if you consider opinion close to yours, also not always easy to resist personal favors.
Ask yourself what is more important now: to get tactical issue solved (and please your ego) or enable team in solving it, have artificial harmony or heavy storming that uncovers real issues to solve.
Mind also talking affirmative words, like “yes”, “ok”, rather use neutral: “thanks”…This is very important when managing conflicts and taking 1 on 2 persons involved in conflict and navigate them.
Keep the balance!
Storming is unavoidable part of any team development. What you need to keep in mind that team will try to involve you in storming with them. Team members will dump all their problems on you. Often some will talk to you when they are supposed to talk to the team when they are sad, mad, frustrated. They will also try to get you on “their side”. These are indication they want you in the storming and appealing to you as to judge and expect you to take certain position (their side).
Do not let yourself be involved in that. Reflect responsibility gently to the team. Stay patient, turn emotions off. Team should feel you are with them, available and supporting, use “we”, never “you”, but position yourself as not part of storming team, so they seek solutions among themselves and storm together.
Definitely! As Scrum Master you have not right to freak around! You are the one that shall stay calm and do not “reflect” when everything / everyone else around does. Mastering does not only ends in what you say and do, but also how. Include body language, facial expression, tone and most importantly thoughts.
Some team members may behave the way so that their intentions are not clear to you (or the other team members). They also may not look ok to you. Any assumption is false here! You simply do not know their insights. Or at least this statement is very useful to be stated periodically. Therefore always assume that you do not know them.
Ask for clarity, ask directly , find comfortable time and place, do it 1 on 1. Practicing active listening will also help: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening
Do not stop conflicts, navigate them. This means, stay neutral, stay calm, understand intentions and most importantly make sides involved to understand each other’s intentions, increase trust and help to reduce negative impact on team.
I always try to make conflicting side open up about how do they feel. Important here is to start conversation with “I” and not “You” since statements starting with “you” quite often sound “blamish”.
There are situation when team in involved in heavy debates and cannot come to an agreement. You as facilitator shall help them to come to a solution, but beware of trap of compromise in order to get common agreement.
Common agreement is something crafted of the opinions of the team, that may be very diverse. Do not start engineer something on top of the parts, consisting of opinions of team members. Because:
- They may be not compatible
- It is not their but your ideas that glue them (so do not expect much enthusiasm and energy)
Make sure agreements are truly owned by the team, it is better to state there is no agreement rather then one designed under your influence, for the sake of having one. Be patient and rather let team do it!
There will be times when your mind will attempt to drift away from here and now. This might happen if you start thinking about what to do next, or why certain thing did happen. Drop it! Stay present with the team and what is currently happening and what is the most important problem they are trying to solve, to be able to facilitate their collaboration efficiently.
Master Powerful Questions
You need to be able to challenge. The trick for servant leader is to challenge the team the way it is not closes opportunities and focuses mindset on thinking how to achieve certain things instead of narrowing them down. Here comes the power of open questions, those that start with magic words like “What”, “How”, “Who”, “Why” and “Why not”.
Also consider silence and one of the most powerful one. Do not try to fill it. Let there be uncomfortable silence. Let there be many opportunities. Here is when team thinking starts…
Here are some very nice inspiring and useful questions I would reccomend
Last but not least one.
The more negative things you will witness the more positivity you should give to the team. This not about being “happy”, this is about enabling team via believing in their capability, empowering with trust and leading by example.
Turn mistakes of others into inspiring and powerful conversation to help them to learn. When it is getting hard, close your eyes and remember positive moment when team performed well. Remind those. Encourage team and yourself. And do not drag mistakes team and you did in the past with you. Leave them!
Stay rich for your capacity for positivity, garden your mind and team spirit!
“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein.
I was about to write another one in the scope of “Getting them…” targeted for Product Owners (PO), however thought that before getting them (stories) out of the sprints it is crucial for sprint success how to get them (team members) on it right…
So story going to be about how PO influences team focus and instills feeling of urgency and what happens if he/she’s not…
To understand this we would need to get back to Sprint Planning meeting (SPM). When PO makes final accords, accepts team commitment and sends team out to the sprint it is very important for everyone to stay focused on the Goals PO presented.
If PO jumps in mid-sprint, having unplanned acceptance criteria, special circumstances, etc… this sends a message: goal is void, direction is being changed, things that had been agreed at SPM are not valid anymore.
Scrum is tense way of delivering software. Constructive tension comes from high commitment and builds up high velocity (aka deliver fast lean principle) that is impossible to achieve without addressing limited and fixed number of issues within timebox.
Let’s understand how this works…
Higher velocity is achieved by staying focused on what is most important. As soon as this vector changes, something that had been important yesterday, becomes less important today, or something else emerges focus drifts away.
But velocity is not single thing this impacts…
More drastic effect this has on team morale, since besides team has to conduct context-switch (that has it’s own impact: see another related post here), but also it throws team into “Less” vicious circle that is:
- Less focus that eats up energy and leads to …
- Less energy that impacts productivity and leads to …
- Less commitment that impacts desire to work and leads to…
- Less motivation that drain attention and lead to …
- Less focus …
- Etc …
Understanding this will help PO to plan sprints in the way to avoid de-focus, protect sprints from interference (and team members from de-focus) and minimize impact of unplanned issues.
Of course fire-fights happen, of course they are important, but it makes sense to dive in root causes and build real quality in rather than fight consequences… and eventually turn circle back into “More..” :).
Knowing what drives yourself and your peers is an esssential key to manage self and people around you. Being it work or private life.
There are many different classifications of what keeps one motivated. I would like to share simple one I apply and found it practically useful to understand what can keep myself and my colleagues motivated (or de-motivated)…
It is based on 5 simple types of motivators – key motives (or incentives) that influence our behavior:
1. Achievement: I will achieve that (to prove myself that I can do it), to feel better. Get it DONE is important for me! Capitalization by investing into the self is usually a real driver for this type of motivator. A burning desire to achieve certain goal has some purpose (to get better, stronger, experienced, more professional, etc…) and constant challenge that keeps me “running”. If such a person lacks challenge or does not sees the “horizon” of self growth he/she starts feeling de-motivated.
2. Social: will do it to earn respect and praise of my colleagues (spouse, friend, etc..). People, having social motivator as a key one care for others opinion more and work towards shaping them to comply to their expectations. If socially driven person doesn’t get praise (or worse gets blame instead) for a while he/she starts get de-motivated.
3. Reward: I will do it to get a reward. The ‘carrot’ thing that can be money but also career growth, benefits, etc… This motivator is easiest to claim, while weakest to retain. Some roles do require reward motivator (e.g. salesguys), but beware of people that have only this motivator as a key one.
4. Process: I like it.I like to do my painting, knitting, etc.., primarily not for getting it done but for the process itself. I enjoy making changes and pace, creativity, investigations, etc. Key root of this type of motivation is freedom to act in the scope of desired and beloved type of activity. As soon as you put a pressure on such a person he/she gets de-motivated.
5. Idea: I believe in that. Strongest one (and only one that actually can be grown up). People do revolutions driven by idea. Those guys stay if company values match with their own value stream. They care less about other motivators if this is the case. If views of such a person do not match with employer/bosses he/she becomes de-motivated and eventually leaves the company.
There are no right or wrong, good/bad motivators. All that makes difference that different types of activities/roles at your company require different qualities (you know the best), that one needs to recognize and consider when staffing.
Here’re some examples of types of motivators that usually (but not necessarily) suit better different positions/roles:
- Sales guy: usually driven by Achievement + Reward motivators;
- Account manager: usually driven by Achievement + Process motivator;
- Programmer: usually driven by Process+ Achievement motivator;
- HR manager: usually driven by Social + Idea motivator;
- CEO: usually driven by Idea + Achievement motivator;
Usually each of us have 1-2 motivators as a key ones. The trick is how to recognize and motivate using that information (should have another post on this).
To be continued…
Thanks to Vlad Zavadsky (an inventor of the approach and business trainer at Runa Consulting group).
“People like talking about people. Makes us feel superior. Makes us feel in control.
And sometimes, for some people, knowing some things makes them care.” [HouseMD #113]
As described in earlier post in “TEAM: 7 indispensable ingredients for Together Everyone Accomplishes More” one of the key elements of a strong team is Brand.
An idea to apply known brand-building practice to team management seemed to me interesting and made me write this blog post.
So I would like to cover a useful tool that can be applied to build up your team brand…
Team Brand is essential team motivator that cannot be given to the team (by company, management, money, etc.), it needs to be build inside, owned and maintained by the team. Actually this is type of “achievement” and “idea”-motivator for a Team (here cross-functional, self-organizing teams are meant, although practice is applicable for any team of small size).
In other words, Team Brand serves as an alignment on its core values/ways to achieve, inspires team by having strong and challenging core set, while distinguishes team among others.
Team brand may be built as any corporate brand starting from key cause or a purpose, moving from core through the benefits (qualities, values) to attributes (tools, norms) supporting and transmitting them.
Well, but an agile self-organizing team needs a hint to start thinking of themselves as a “company”, having a “brand”. A hint that envisions this mind shift would sound like: think of your TEAM as of an entrepreneurship and your collaboration as of an inspiring challenge! Imagine you’re running business with your peers (which is not that far away from reality, considering self-organized development team doing SCRUM).
- WHY are we here, what we want to achieve together, what is our core, our strongest believe and our purpose? Why do we exist as a TEAM? Which core value we all share?
- HOW we can make this happen? What principles (benefits, qualities) support this?
- WHAT we exactly will do (and will NOT tolerate) to support each of the key principles we’ve agreed upon that contribute to our purpose?
A tool I recommend to use at this step to create and maintain team DNA is known “Team Radar” retrospective facilitation activity (see “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great” by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen for detailed explanation).
It simply suits best this exercise. Here it is used to gather data on team itself and perform self-assessment in the future.
An outcome applying this practice to an Agile self-organizing team may look like this:
As soon as agreed Team DNA is documented, printed out and placed in visible area (ideally at the team scrum board and/or also very usefull in retrospective room). This will serve as a point to refer/remind when choosing for right decision/action and will keep team motivated to comply everything they think, decide and do with their core.
But this “artifact” shall not be “curved in stone”. It’s living, since team is also living. So on and on reviewing it, team curves itself, making their brand stronger and more unique, by finding out deeper levels of their own common values, purposes, beliefs and means, achieving them.
The more team does so, the more it finds it’s own distinctive way doing things and becomes more distinguished (“branded”) and valued by managers, stakeholders, POs, etc…
Good teams that value the way they perform and look, care about this and move further finding out more challenging cores, supporting principles and norms.
Besides that it’s a funny collaborative action that contributes to team building.
Brand up your Team, guys 🙂
- “How to Build and Manage Your Brand (in sickness and in health)” ebook
- “Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))” by Lyssa Adkins
- “Branding Governance: A Participatory Approach to the Brand Building Process” by Nicholas Ind and Rune Bjerke.
There are thousands of articles and blogposts about what makes a strong team. Here’s my view on what makes bunch of people being a TEAM and what qualities strong team should have. It is based on observation of all successful (and therefore strong) teams I’ve ever met, experience working with and/or built.
Assumption: it would be necessary to assume that group of people shall have common Goal as key motive and prerequisite to become a TEAM.
1. Self-commitment: this is key important characteristic of a strong team. Commitment to the team, putting the team interests first—and commitment to each individual on the team in helping him or her become everything he or she can.
2. Brand: this is aligned vision, strategy, purpose and values of the team. Team identity, both internally spoken/unspoken and transported inside and outside. These are the things every team member believes in and those that are “reflected” in team norms and via way team perceived from outside, that determines unique team behavior, team distinctiveness. This is team motivator first place and only second place team “label”.
3. Trust and care: mutual trust and value of each other, expressed in giving positiveness to each other regularly and helping out just if someone feels bad for whatever reason. Not being afraid to be/look vulnerable to each other. Standing for each other in hard times! All for one and one for all!
4. Peer-pressure: to be able to move, team should have a mechanism that keeps “wheels rotating” daily. Either a team lead (or a peer-pressure in self-organized teams). That is managerial ability of a team to put constructive pressure and spread sense of urgency and accountability around peers that makes team doing whatever is needed to achieve the Goal.
5. “Short Distance” for continuous improvement: having time together creates a good context where “distance” becomes “shorter”, leading to being more comfortable and open with non-comfortable questions, – key for state known as “storming” (see Tuckman’s stages of group development) that is indefensible for team to change (self-improve). Strong teams embrace change when they need to.
6. Transparently communicating: to understand each other, a team has to be willing to invest the time necessary to share their states, feelings and opinions openly. Without talking and listening to each other on a daily basis, team may fall apart. And it’s very important to happen also informally, not just during status meetings or stand-ups.
7. One Boat in to win-win: there is no my/your work to be done or my/your goals to be met or “I’m done, now it’s your turn while I’ll slack around…”. Responsibility and accountability for everything team does and is shared among team members. Successes and failures, happiness and disappointment, praise and blame is a shared pie to eat.
There are many other specific traits that different teams have, however those mentioned, are common pattern for almost all strong ones, regardless of what they are up to, what business they are working for, etc.
Recently I observed an interesting trap one team fall into. When asked how confident guys feel about hitting the target, they was almost jointly saying they’re absolutely confident, however burndown chart trend told me they won’t make it.
Well, I am absolutely sure that this is what we all want to have – 100% confidence, however here’s the dangerous trap.
We may stay satisfied and oversee problems (or pretend that tomorow the problems will be gone). Or try not to rise them. Or feel uncomfortable rising them. Or think that others will feel uncomfortable if we raise them, etc…
But, they will NOT disappear. Problems usually have tendency to pile up… And when such a team recognizes that, it’s already too late…. and painful.
Kaizen mindset and “Toyota way of Lean Leadership” cultivate culture of “continuous crisis” that requires continuous improvement . Only having daily cultivated feeling of urgency and need, maintains the rhythm of tense and productive environment that reduces risk of facing a FAILURE.
As Toyota management team stated in 2010:
“We realized we need to develop a grater sense of urgency, in our business. Success is good, but without urgency serious weakness sets in, customer focus declines, creative ideas dry up and before you know it, you’re in trouble”.
So here is the trick to recognize: before you know it, you’re in trouble.
But the word and concept has negative tone and may have de-motivating impact on a team. How to make it distinct and positive?
Here is an advice…
Unlike panic or hysteria, urgency is a constructive, ordered and focused sense, therefore it should not de-motivate. Simply because it results in targeted and the only correct decision and action. Deffer commitment + deliver fast, guys!
To illustrate this imagine fighter aircraft pilot that needs to make the only correct decision and act accordingly within 10 seconds left before he may crash. And here is the difference that also proven by multiple real-life cases:
- Panic: an ordinary pilot most likely starts to hit all buttons around (maximizes focus and work-in-progress) or worse, thinks about death (we will fail…), not believing that this happens to him (we will not fail, I do not see problem, it’s not about us/me…);
- Urgency: trained pilot usually freezes for 7 seconds (analysis, defer commitment), makes decision, then within 3 remaining seconds quickly does (focused, fast) the only correct action to stabilize aircraft;
Feel the difference?
A takeaway is simple: stay open-eyed with reality, constantly challenge your confidence, do not fall into trap of satisfied optimism, distinguish among your will and reality, spread urgency around and stay hungry © for constant improvement.