One of the holy grails of Agile in software development and other business scenarios is how to organize so that stable teams are efficient, effective and safe. The great preponderance of organizations use some variant of an organizational model that groups people by specialty and then allocate them to project teams. This creates a matrix in which any practitioner will be part of two or more teams, which, in turn, means they have two or more managers and serve two or more masters. People, like desks, chairs, and laptops, flow to the area of need, disband, and then return to a waiting pool until needed again. One of the basic assumptions is that within some limits people are fungible and can be exchanged with relative impunity. This approach has problems. Ariana Racz, Senior Quality Assurance Analyst, provided a great summary of what is wrong with the idea that people are fungible in her response to Get Rid of Dynamic Teams: The Teams. Ariana stated, “A resource on paper is not a resource in application.” In most circumstances, dynamic/matrixed teams reduce the productivity of knowledge workers. (more…)
April 20, 2017
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February 7, 2017
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Coaches and change agents use many types of influence to help teams and organizations perform better as they lead. Influence can be applied through a number of highly nuanced approaches. And like many activities, when you find success with one it is easy to fall into a trap of thinking that that approach will always work. While sports analogies are often overdone, I will add one more to the pile before swearing them off (for this essay at least). The Super Bowl, the pinnacle of US Football, was recently played and featured a come from behind victory. The New England Patriots won the game despite having many of their top receivers sidelined due to injury. If the Patriots had only one approach to the game based on that set of receivers they would have been blown out. A good coach will be able to leverage different forms of influence based on the context they find themselves face or be able to recognize when dangerous forms of influence are being used. Recently I ran across a list of 7 approaches to influencing teams or organizations. Some of these approaches can be useful for coaches and some are harmful. The 7 forms of influence, some good and some bad, include: (more…)
December 10, 2016
In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we conclude Part Three with the sections titled the Last Stand, Flack, Heavy Lifting, and Rally. I suspect we have 3 or 4 weeks left before moving to the next book, BUT we still have a number of ideas to extract from this book.
If you are new to the re-read series buy a copy and go back to week one and read along!
I have not heard any nay sayers on the idea of re-reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset next, however just be to fair I am going to include a poll at the end to decide between Mindset, Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) and Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). I would like your opinion! (more…)
December 3, 2016
In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we tackle the sections titled Accountability, Individual Contributor, and The Talk. We are getting close to the end of the novel portion of the book, but over the next few weeks we have a number of ideas to extract from the book before we review the model.
(Remember to buy a copy and read along.) We are well over halfway through this book and I am considering re-reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset next. What are your thoughts?
The second off-site continued with a discussion immediately turned began with a review of progress toward the teams 18 deal (sales) goal. Lencioni uses the 18 deal goal to illustrate developing a measurable goal and how the team holds itself accountable. As a reminder, the four key drivers the team had agreed upon in the first off-site were: product demonstrations, competitive analysis, sales training, and product brochures. Martin reported that product demonstrations were ahead of schedule partially becasue Carlos had pitched in to help Martin. Carlos’s chipping in had the unintended consequence of contributing to the competitor analysis that Carlos was leading being behind schedule. The competitor analysis was also behind because Carlos had not gotten support from Nick’s people. This detail is important to illustrate two issues. The first is that Carlos had not gone to Nick to talk about the getting the needed support. Carlos had not engaged to hold Nick accountable. Secondly, no one had actually even challenged Carlos about the progress he was making on the competitor analysis. Carlos and the team had fallen down on accountability.
Lencioni (using Kathryn’s voice) states that there are three reasons it is difficult to hold people accountable.
- Some people are just generally helpful,
- Some get defensive, or
- Some are intimidating.
There are probably other reasons it is difficult to hold or be held accountable. Accountability is intertwined with the concept of trust. Without accountability, it is difficult to trust. Holding someone accountable does not represent a lack of trust, but rather a signal of a trust that team members push to make the team better.
As this section concludes, Mikey holds herself out as better than the team and only sarcastically goes along with the decision for everyone to attend sales training (note: once upon a time I might have been this person).
As a team, holding each other accountable for the actions and activities that we’ve agreed to do is critical for the health of the team. Teams that don’t have enough trust to be willing to hold each other accountable means that it’s very difficult to make progress as a team.
The fourth driver of DecsionTech’s 18 deal goals, new product brochures, was the next topic. Mikey proudly produced mockups of the brochures from her bag and announced they were going to print next week. A train wreck ensued. Nick was uncomfortable because his people have been doing research and no one had talked to them. Mikey, as the marketing lead, had struck out on her own without consulting and interacting with a team. Her opinion was more important than that of the team. BOOM. Kathryn called for a long break and dismissed everyone except Mikey.
Individuals need participate and integrate into the team. Attributes such as humility and working well in a team, the ability to accept criticism and then work in a manner that allows others to have input are required to work in a team. While individual contributors are important they are generally not the right people for an effective team.
Mikey did not seem to see the end coming. Mikey was not aware of her impact on the team. Mikey’s reaction to Kathryn’s comment “I don’t think you are fit for this team” indicated she did not understand her impact on the team.
Throughout the story, Lencioni paints a picture of Mikey as the person that cuts herself off, eye rolls when statements are made that she doesn’t believe without getting involved in the discussion and in generally acts as a motivation heatsink. Mikey only really respected herself. As the talk progressed, Mikey turned to veiled threats to deflect Kathryn’s decision (a form of frustration on the Kubler-Ross change curve). In the end though Kathryn felt that Mikey was coming to terms with the situation, but she was wrong. Another Lencioni cliffhanger.
“Talks” like these are a form of negotiation. In these circumstances, unless both parties see the event coming, one party will tend to have less information or power than the other. When a similar situation occurred between Kathryn and Nick, Nick was successfully able to delay the decision so that he could reduce the stress of the situation and help even the power balance. Saying yes immediately in this type of negotiations probably isn’t a good idea. Let things sink in and then even if you can say yes immediately don’t.
Three quick takeaways:
- Team members hold other team members accountable.
- Be aware of how you affect the people around you or suffer the consequences!
- Try to step back and reduce the stress when confronted by tough negotiations.
Previous Installments in the re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni:
November 19, 2016
I am back from the Øredev in Malmo, Sweden. It was a wonderful conference. Check out my short review.
In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), the team returns to the office and quickly begins the transformation process.
(Remember to buy a copy from the link above and read along.)
Part Three – Heavy Lifting (more…)
November 10, 2016
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A Scrum of Scrums (SoS) is a mechanism to coordinate a group of teams so that they act as a team of teams. Powerful tools often have side effects that, if not countered, can do more harm than good. There are several “anti-patterns” that organizations adopt that negatively impact the value a SoS can deliver. In Scaling Agile: Scrum of Scrums: Anti-patterns Part 1 we explored The Soapbox, The Blame Game and Surrogate Project Manager, which three typical anti-patterns. Two other common anti-patterns are the Three Bears and Pyramid syndromes. (more…)
November 8, 2016
A Scum of Scrums (SoS) is a mechanism to coordinate a group of teams so that they act as a team of teams. SoS is a powerful tool. As with any powerful tool, if you use it wrong, problems will ensue. Six problematic implementations, called anti-patterns, are fairly common. We’ll discuss three in part 1 and finish the rest in part 2. (more…)