Friday, 23 February 2018

The important features of a great team

There is a game we play at home that I would like to share.

The rules are simple:

Given you are alone in a dark room or corridor
When you hear someone else approaching
Then you have try jump out at them
  And scare the c**p out of them

There is some skill to this game. Once you have played it a few times everyone knows what is going to happen. In anticipation, everyone goes very silent in order to detect where the other one is. Inevitably, people stop breathing but start laughing - first one who does has lost.

None of the kids play this game. This is something myself and Mrs A do, which is most unbecoming of some 40 year olds.

It is something that is uniquely ours. Something that does not really make sense in another context. It is special to us but probably completely dumb to others. It was not planned but was spontaneous and if it was copied would not be the same.

But this is where the good stuff is.

Teams also have these special bits too. They come from working closely with each other and letting your guard down enough to reveal our human selves.

This does not happen immediately. I often does not happen if there conditions are not right, if there is not enough freedom to express who we are and explore our relationships with one another.

Often unprofessional, usually silly and totally unique to each team, these are the special features that make teams great both to work in and with. Love them or loose them.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

All worship Board God

The use of boards by teams is nothing new, every team I work with has some way of visualising their work. Many teams seem to stall at changing the board, leaving ownership to some individual (maybe the ScrumMaster or the most vocal member of the group).

This is a shame. Since the board mirrors the teams process, which is owned by the team.

I was in a situation where the board was being dictated by a single person and the team looked too scared to change it. People would compain about the board by not try to do anything about it.

In a moment of frustration, I thought "Fine, you fix it".

Enter the 'Board God'.

If anyone ventures a strong opinion on the board you can appoint them as 'Board God' for a week.

The Board God can do anything to the board they like and the team have to follow their direction for that week. At the end of the week, the team decides what they will keep and what they will reject. Stripped of his or her powers the Board God must accept their decision.

If I hear someone grumbling about something on the board, I usually appoint them 'Board God' to see how they will solve the problem they are grumbling about. Eventually, people will start to ask if they can be 'Board God' to address a specific issue that they can see.

This can trigger a spate of change, where different 'Board God's' mess with each others changes. This is a positive thing since people are getting involved with the board and ultimately the process itself.

Teams that have learned to embrace changing the board often evolve their process outside of the retrospective, shortening feedback to days or even hours.

When used in conjunction with scoring stand-ups, a team can inspect and adapt quickly. I have seen stand ups of 20+ people go from train wreck to useful in under a week using peer feedback. A score of 3 or under means you have to share what was wrong for you and the team agree corrective actions for the next day there and then.

'Board Gods' provide a solution to a problem that is then inspected by the team. The process adapts to the use the good bits and things that do not work are discarded in a safe to fail way. One team I worked with even versioned their board to help them understand when a lasting change was implemented.

This idea started as a punishment but has turned out to be a useful tool to remind teams who owns the process and encourage them to get involved in shaping it.