Archive for category Teamwork

Scrum your Improvements back within 4 Sprints

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” 
          – Albert Einstein

I am going to tell you a story of continuous improvement and how we have enabled those recently in our team of teams… I have picked this story up because situation at many companies is often quite similar:

The Problem:

are-you-too-busy-to-improve2

Although many of them understand need for continuous improvement it gets hard to plan those together with features… and in practice implementations are often missing or poor:

  • There is an increasing demand to deliver..
  • Development teams are treated as “feature factories”,
  • And no time to improve, no time to “sharpen tools” to be more efficient
  • More pressure… risking improvements

And all this creates: feeling we are stuck, frustration, demotivates, affects efficiency and quality in longer run… and gets more complicated in multi-team environments… as it also includes agreements and collaboration factors between several teams…

We have tried many things and eventually were inspired by Jeff Sutherland’s Cycle of Scrum Master from Scrum@Scale …and here is what we have done …

But let us understand circumstances first… and how does process look from a single team perspective:

Team of Teams KAIZEN Sketch

  • Development team plans and runs their 2 week sprint…
  • That ends up with DONE product increment
  • And a delivery of it together with other 5 teams
  • These 6 teams are sharing codebase, decisions, tooling and environments together + they deliver in the same cadence
  • They talk regularly as Team-of-Teams to Inspect & Adapt their delivery process aka Team of Teams Retrospectives
  • In the past they were trying to implement findings of those retrospectives, immedeattely but only few were really managed…

Sprint 1: so this made us thought how we can Scrum those improvements back in sprints…..

  • We have obtained an agreement with Product Owner team to let each team pull at least 1 SMALL Task from that backlog per team / sprint and that this task shall be prioritized as a part of the default sprint goal 
  • We have also agreed within teams to file their improvements as tasks marked accordingly that comprise so called Kaizen Backlog

We have put these decisions into actions and felt results almost after a sprint…

Sprint 2: why we must wait to come up with improvements?… 

  • Apart from those any team at any moment can propose an improvement and for that thy can use SoS to share their ideas with peer teams
  • Those ideas after acknowledged by other teams are also parked in the same backlog

Sprint 3:  how to make sure Task is READY? Development of that lead to…

  • Distribution of tasks happens latest 1st Scrum-of-Scrum of the sprint for the sprint after current. This we have done for creating enough pace for the teams to refine / groom those and size them so that they are SMALL.

Sprint 4: after a while we have noticed that it would be good to prioritize that backlog…

  • Besides regular intervals ToT also joins forces in validating this backlog, checking prioritization, etc. This we call “Kaizen Triage Meeting”. After a while we have looked together at this backlog and understood that we have there 4 types of improvements:
    • ProdQuality – Quality of Production (Live Product) is ensured, i.e.Monitoring, Logs, Live Tests
    • DevQuality – Quality of Development (or soon to be released) is ensured…
    • Efficiency – Saving Time for Development, …
    • ProdPerformance – Performance of the product for end users

On top: We have also thought about some symbolic celebration

  • After team implements an improvement task, they get a STAR
  • Default expectation 1 star per team per sprint, but in practice some try and did more…
  • After each sprint we acknowledge how many STARS we have produced all together!

Results are:

  • Many small practical improvements fast
  • Feeling of continuously “steering” our technology
  • Increased motivation and feeling of ownership in teams
  • Was measured by tickets inflow / outflow + happiness

This worked because:

  • improvements were small, easier to plan, implement and deploy them
  • therefore, they are also less risky to do
  • process is simple lightweight, easy to follow
  • shorter improvement cycle allows faster response
  • queue of the backlog is short and manageable

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 12.40.06

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Emergent Improvements over managed changes

KaiZen.png

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?

Communicate

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.

Experiment

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.

Ally

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

Involve

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.

Act small

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

References

  • 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.

Leave a comment

Scaledance of Team Healthcheck

To keep the body in good health is a duty,
otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
Buddha

HealthcheckEvery self-organized team requires periodic “healthchecks”. With this idea I have started to surf web in search of the best tooling that could help me with the agenda for my team’s Teambuilding retrospective….

 

At the same time team was “storming” and needed help to get into Solution-centric thinking …

My search resulted in making mix of two techniques and I would like to offer ready retrospective script to Scrum Masters. So, “retrospective-cocktail” I am coming up with here “mixes” “Team Barometer” & “Scaledance of an Aspect” techniques serving team to imprive key aspects of Teamwork.

Team Barometer

This is survey-workshop format excerscize adressing 16 team characteristics, packaged as a deck of cards. Download the cards, print them, and cut them out. You want one deck for each participant. Click here to download the cards.

You also need voting cards. Original script reccomends one green, one yellow and one red card but I have used 3,2,1 and 0 planning poker cards (yes, I’ve intentionally modified and introduced the 4th state not to result into “let us take golden middle everywhere”).

Each card has a headline naming a characteristic of a team, and a green and a red statement. Excerscize is to read them out loud one by one, give people a couple of seconds to think and ask them to “poker” this aspect, collecting sum of all votes and NOT discussing estimates like in classical planning poker. Attached you can find list of aspects with an example estimates Team_Healthcheck_Aspects

Scaledance of an Aspect Approach

Idea is as simple as 0-to-10 scale with 10 representing the desired goal and 0 representing its opposite. It provides three focal states for the conversation:

  1. NOW: Where we are now? (value=N, current state) – an account of all that is currently contributing to that future, including past successes
  2. GOAL: Where we want to be in the end? (value=10) – description of a best possible future
  3. STEP: Where we would like to move to? (value = N + 1) – exploration of possible progress in the immediate future

Example:

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 22.40.27

Powerful questions and methaphors for those 3 states are:

NOW (methaphor: let us look back):

  • Where do we stand at this moment?
  • What works already so that you are already at N rather than lower?
  • And how it is now?
  • What is happening now?
  • How did we manage to be at N?
  • What was our contribution?

GOAL (methaphor: let us look back from the future position):

  • What will be different, when we reached 10?
  • How will others notice that we reached it?
  • Suppose we reachedit, what will we do differently?
  • How does the “bright” future looks now?

STEP (methaphor: imagine we are already at N+1):

  • On this scale, where do we want to be, for example, in 1 month?
  • Imagine we are at N+1 now. What is different?
  • And what else our collegues, management, etc. might notice?
  • ….

Key here to first talk about states (and not immedeately jump to actions). In Scaledance exscerscize states seen as “goal setting” tool.

Retrospective Script

  1. Introduction & Agenda – 5 min
  2. Checkin / Warmup – 5 min
  3. Healthcheck: aspects estimation – 15 min
    • Write aspects on the board / wiki/confluence page and record sum of estimates
    • Make sure you do not record individual estimates, rather how many 3,2,1 and 0s we have
    • Make sure you do NOT ask “whys?” to the estimates
    • All that counts is the sum of estimates of all team members
  4. Healthcheck: prioritisation – 5 min
    • Here you can ask each team member to come up with the “backlog” of their desired top 3-5 aspects they would think team would benefit most discussing
    • Then you can ask team to collaboratevly produce joint backlog of top 3-5 aspects
    • This is important step as lowest estimate of an aspect does not mean this is the most important one, some of them are in realtion to one another and this relation totally unique for each team, so only team members can choose what would they benefit from the best.
      Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 22.50.05
  5. Scaledance of an aspect – 30 min per topic
    • Running Scaledance for desired aspect: Now, Step
    • As aspect – card already represents 0-state and 10-Goal-state you do not have to specify them
    • Ask team to Describe NOW, e.g. by giving them 3 minutes for producing sticky notes
    • Brainstorm together to define how N+1 looks like
    • Derive Actions to make N+1 happen
      Scaledance_of_an_Aspect.png
  6. Proceed with the next Aspect
  7. Closure & Feedback – 5 min

Resources / Techniques / Copyrights / Thanks:

Leave a comment

6 Team Building Retrospectives for steel-strong teams

Team BuildingI 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

this earlier).

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):

  1. Cool guy, team member of my dream 🙂
  2. 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):

  1. How do I feel myself in the team?
  2. How I would like to change it?
  3. How I would like that person X changes certain behavior (how do I feel)?
  4. If X changes that what do I offer in return?
  5. 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:

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:

Part 2:

  • Because of what you have just said, it appears to me that you are someone who is / has / can….
  • 1.
  • 2.

Then again ask to share findings with pair and think together to answer part 3:

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

member.

Brainwriting exercise: My communication style (underline what is more relevant to you)

  1. Do I prefer read or listen?
  2. Am I fan of short statements or do I prefer long reports?
  3. Do I want long meetings every month or prefer short meetings more often?
  4. Do I like to know entire story, every single bit, or do I want to know just the headline (big picture)?
  5. 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

  1. Does my colleague prefer read or listen?
  2. Is she/he I fan of short statements or prefers long reports?
  3. Does he/she want long meetings every month or prefers short meetings more often?
  4. Does she/he like to know entire story, every single bit, or wants to know just the headline (big picture)?
  5. Is it sufficient someone says something to me once or do I have to be reminded several times until I notice?
  6. 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)

See also:

Leave a comment