HOW TO RAMPUP A GREAT AGILE TEAM BUILDING OR AGILE TEAMWORK
Every time I join a new Scrum Team, one of my focus is to establish an Agile Teamwork. A great agile team building is essential for the future of the team.
In this blog post, I explain what do you need to take into consideration as Scrum Master to create a great team. I want to tell what are the 14 teams Characteristicsistics of High Performing Teams.
14 mandatory characteristics to enable fantastic teams
I had an opportunity to attend Organizational Relationship System Coaching (ORSC), where I learned many coaching tactics and tools. I learned how to tackle both team and organisational issues, such as low productivity, lack of innovation, low morale, lack of communication, etc.
A powerfully positive or intensely negative atmosphere will have a great impact on team members and their effectiveness. There are seven Positivity and seven Productivity Factors.
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You can speak openly and freely about your team. Team members can count on each other and are reliable. We should tell the truth even if it´s uncomfortable.
The team members are empowered to contribute their best. There are a mutual respect and real concern. Characteristics such as contempt and hostility are not accepted.
Empathy, good humour and playfulness are appreciated. There is a strong sense of belonging to the team. The team members celebrate and recognise accomplishments.
Clear and efficient communication is appreciated. What is not valued are less direct approaches such as gossiping, stonewalling or politicising.
Conflict can arise as a mean of opportunity for discovery, creativity and growth. The team should avoid defensiveness, criticising and finger pointing. A team should give and receive feedback on timely manners.
The team is open-minded and appreciates differences in ideas, perspectives, backgrounds, personalities and approaches. Diversity is crucial.
The team shares an inspiring vision. The team members are enthusiastic and appreciative of each other. There is a strong spirit of fighting together for the goal.
There is a strong sense of team leadership. Team members contribute when the need for their leadership happens. The team leader´s role is clear and supportive.
The team correctly manages available resources and training to meet its objectives. There is an atmosphere of “win-win” rather than “win-loose.”
The team has transparent and efficient decision-making processes, which have are proven to be effective.
The team takes the initiative. The team is flexible in addressing opportunities, responding positively and creatively. Change is core to the team, and it is crucial for the rest of the organisation too.
There is clarity of roles and responsibilities. When problems occur, the team responds. Team members hold each other accountable for team results and side agreements.
Goals and Strategies
The team has clear, challenging targets and strategies to achieve them. The team is strong and does not let their goals to be defeated quickly.
The team values cooperation, coherence and interdependence. The team has a common mission and purpose.
Team Coaching International (TCI) offers the Certified Team Facilitator training that teaches various coaching methods and tools. With this certification, you´ll be able to run assessments with your teams that provide you with a clear picture of these 14 factors in your team.
Steps towards high performance
The 14 characteristics are crucial for any Agile Team Building. However, what is also important is to know the vision and purpose, which leads to having a great Agile Teamwork.
If a team does not have any vision or purpose, they do their daily job without knowing the direction. My job is to help teams to become high performing teams, and the following steps are some of the ways to get there.
Set the Product Vision
The first thing we must ensure to have a successful team is to establish a common goal for everyone in a team. For example, for a development team, the common purpose could be delivering a high-quality product to a customer.
In such situation, a Product Owner has a vital role to share that vision and make sure everyone understands how to build a product. The Product Owner is responsible for creating the common goal for the team.
“Vision without action is just a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” by Joel A. Barker
A possible exercise for this example:
The Product Owner prepares a press release and presents it to the team. The team will be able to see the big picture and understand WHY they should work in the team and WHAT they need to accomplish as a team.
However, the Product Owner should not define HOW the team should work. This is team´s responsibility.
This exercise is important for 2 reasons:
1.This exercise is reaffirming the common goal if team members know what they need to do
2.Doing this exercise will help the team to create a decisive common goal if they don´t have a clear idea of the common goal.
Help a team to define their definition of awesomeness
It´s critical to help the team find their definition of awesomeness and to help them create a “dream team”.
To do that, I recommend starting a brainstorming session. Start by only asking what the meaning of “awesomeness is”. When they think about an “awesome team”, what does it represent for them?
You can split this topic into smaller parts, for example:
Technical awesomeness: Being able to release in every check in, 100% test coverage, 0% manual testing, ATTD Gurus, etc.
People awesomeness: The best group of individuals in the world, the team that has a lot of fun, the team that helps each other at every moment of the day, etc.
Innovativeness awesomeness: The most innovative team in the world, the team always comes up with new fresh ideas, etc.
After this exercise, you will have an idea of what an awesome team means. Help the team create their final version of their “awesome team”.
Help a team to select their values
I believe everyone acts based on their values; therefore defining team values is a highly important activity. This is a powerful exercise that brings people together.
Defining values is a way to select a behaviour of individuals in some circumstances. For example, if you define humour as one of your values, it means your team wants to have fun during working time.
Every time things would get boring team members would refer to this value reminding them that something was missing and they would need to do something about it to bring some fun into daily work.
In a scrum team, there are five values that you can show to your team:
Focus: Because we focus on few things at a time, we work together well and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items faster.
Courage: Because we are not alone, we feel being supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
Openness: As we work together, we practice expressing how we’re doing and what’s in our way. We learn that it is good to express concerns so that they can address it.
Commitment: Because we have significant control over our destiny, we become more committed to success.
Respect: As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we respect each other and help each other become worthy of respect.
The team does not need to adopt Scrum values, but taking and referring to them frequently contributes to improving a scrum team. On top of these values, I would recommend selecting two or three more values to help the team to create their identity.
How to improve your Agile teamwork
I believe that most of you have, at some point, had performance issues within your teams, problems with cooperation, or team spirit issues.
I want to show you how to help a development team to improve their collaboration. We apply this to any dysfunctional team. I will share my experience, but also ideas I took from the course “Agile Coaching Teams” with Lysa Adkins and Michael Spayd.
Addressing the problem is important
When you have a problem caused by the poor agile implementation, you should address it directly. You should state the problem as you see it and then ask the team what they want to do about it.
We call this “Showing the system to itself”, and that means showing the system to the people involved through observation of what is going on (Click here to find this useful exercise).
I believe it is tough to tackle a problem using any kind activity if your team is not aware of the problem and if they are not interested in solving it.
When a team tries to solve the problems, I suggest various activities (see below) that are great to restore the energy and good practices of the team and improve the teamwork.
You can use these activities for a two-day team building.
Setting the Product Vision
The first thing that we must ensure, to have a successful team, is to establish a common goal for all team members. You can perform exercise I described above.
This exercise should take about 2 hours, which should be enough for the Product Owner to explain the vision and answer any possible questions.
Five dysfunctions of a team
The inspiration for a second exercise is taken from the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The book discusses why even most successful teams struggle to get good results. See the pyramid of the dysfunctions below.
Absence of Trust
Fear of Conflict
Lack of Commitment
Avoidance of Accountability
Inattention to Results
Based on my experience, most of the team members will identify at least one problem from the pyramid.
Visualising these problems will make them think about status quo while realising there is a lot to be done to achieve a great team.
One hour is a good timeframe to familiarise the team with the pyramid and answer all their questions.
The absence of Trust is a key issue to tackle in Appreciation Exercise.
When your team deals with this issue, let them answer the five questions presented on the picture below.
How do I see myself in the team?
How well do I feel about that?
What do I value about XY?
If possible, what would be my desire that XY changes?
What is my offer to XY and everyone?
Note: To answer the fourth question, the team should express their request as a wish, not as an accusation. This is a good opportunity to use NVC (non-violent communication). The participants will connect with their feelings, emotions, and wishes.
Make sure you book a half a day for this exercise, as you will want to spend a decent amount of time on it.
After the exercise, the team spirit will be quite high, and team members might be pleased with the outcome. It is important to realise that it takes time to see the results, as these issues cannot be solved in a day or two, but it´s certainly useful for bringing the team together
High Performing Tree
The next exercise uses Agile Values/Scrum Values. It is again the time to refresh the values.
Lyssa Adkins uses the metaphor of a tree, stating that for a team to be highly productive, they need to have strong roots. When the roots are strong and solid the tree can grow and flourish, bearing beautiful fruits. Below you can see Lyssa’s example.
One hour should be enough to refresh the Scrum values.
Now, it´s time for a practical approach. Make sure to reserve half a day for the Lego exercise.
The goal of this game is to simulate every aspect of the Scrum process: the team members will be asked to build an entire city using Lego blocks. The team will have to put into practice everything learned previously. More details about the Lego Scrum can be found here.
After completing these exercises, you will have a great Agile Team Building and your team will be ready for a fresh start and will be able to work better as a team to deliver products of higher quality.
Please do not expect to have a highly productive team a day after the exercises. This is just a starting point. Exercises tackle the most fundamental problems, e.g. lack of trust.
Now, it is the job of a Scrum Master or Agile Coach to continue working with the team to help them overcome problems and become highly productive.
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