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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 441 features our interview with John Le Drew.  John and I discussed the concept of safety at work, and how safety, or the lack of it, affects the effectiveness of software teams.

John’s bio . . .

In almost 2 decades working in software engineering, John Le Drew has worked as a software engineer, team lead, project manager, product owner, trainer, agile coach, and consultant. Working with clients ranging from small start-ups to multinationals.

Through Wise Noodles he has helped organizations solve tough technical problems by untangling their people problems. John hosts The Agile Path Podcast; producing in-depth audio documentaries on the topics that most affect organizations transitioning to agile ways of working.

The manifesto for agile software development and the principles behind it is central to how John approaches software and value development. Working with organizations to help them learn to apply the principles has become a passion. There is nothing more exciting to John than seeing a team surprise themselves with potential they did not realize they had. Contact John via email at (more…)


There are those who believe that implementing a capability team is as easy as identifying a group of people, putting them together, and then doing a few team building exercises. Instant team! In the simplest terms possible – they are wrong.  There are four complicating factors that have to be addressed. (more…)

Not Exactly A Capability Team, But Close!

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…)


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…)

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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…)

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

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.

  1.      Some people are just generally helpful,
  2.      Some get defensive, or
  3.      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.

Individual contributor

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.

The Talk

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:

Week 1 – Introduction through Observations

Week 2 – The Staff through the End Run

Week 3 – Drawing the Line though Pushing Back

Week 4 – Entering Danger though Rebound

Week 5 – Awareness through Goals

Week 6 – Deep Tissue through Exhibition

Week 7 – Film Noir through Application

Week 8 – On-site through Fireworks

Week 9 – Leaks through Plowing On

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

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…)