Counting voices for improving team communication

I believe that looking for the ideal number of people to have a conversation is asking the wrong question… One should be asking how to provide something valuable to those involved in the conversation, how they can learn, find inspiration and exchange experiences.

“Some people talk a lot, but aren’t saying anything”

Conversation is all about individuals exchanging information. Conversation only happens when information flows from each individual towards another person. In order for this to happen certain conditions have to be met: Continue reading

Flip coin decisions

 coins When your team has little time to decide on how to approach a difficult challenge. Let them decide by coins! May the best idea win!
  1. Discuss the challenge

basejumpprep   Image by J. Neun

  1. How would they cope with the challenge at hand? Listen to idea’s from the group (one idea per person)

teamideas

  1. Let the team pick the top ideas (3-5), write them down
  2. “Everyone, pick your coins!”

teamivotebycoin

  1. Vote for an idea by putting your coin face up on the table covered by your hand, removing your hand only when all coins are on the table.
  2. In case of a tie we will vote again to see which idea is most suited to cope with the given challenge (time constraints, required resources…)
  3. The winner(s) will face the challenge using their ideas
  4. Extra fun: If the winner(s) can successfully complete the challenge by realising their idea(s) they can have the pick of place to celebrate (team drink,…).
 plus
    • Involvement
    • Quick decisions
    • Motivation boost
    • Reality check (team feedback)

Exploring your Goals and achieving them

With all that social media hype, we’re in a world of overflowing information and communication streams. There are mails, texts and so many other feeds constantly competing for our attention. It’s a real challenge to keep focused especially when it comes to product development where complex disciplines like analysis, design and testing meet. More and more, experts from other fields like healthcare run into similar communication difficulties like how to decide which information is relevant, accurate and valuable?

“In order to work together the people (involved) and the powers-that-be must share the same vision.”

Communication issues are among the top 10 reasons for project failure, another one being a lack of clearly defined responsibilities.

When working together ensure the communication is structured and clear. Keep it simple and keep it human. It has to base on mutual understanding and check whether those needs and goals are truly understood. There is a time to define, teams to inspire, vision to explore and goals to conclude.

“One Goal, One Vision, One Mission”

Oh, if you can plug into people’s emotions by making them see their own needs, go for it… Make them talk about their issues. Nothing is more powerful than intrinsic motivation.

In my experience, what is working when creating shared vision?

  • Define the Needs
  • Inspire the Team to Explore options to address those Needs
  • Explore team Goals

What’s my inspiration writing this? Queen – One Vision, thinking on team level rather than a single man…

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Yes it’s f*cking Political, everything’s Political

Skunk Anansie inspires me to write this short post on behaviour patterns and how they are affected by political motivations.  We are all wearing many different masks for different people and changing them according to the situation for our own personal gain, nothing wrong with that right?  That is understandable behaviour for anyone that’s trying to make the best out of their own lives.

However, it become a different story when this behaviour is present in organisations, since the values of these organisations often don’t match, the goal of personal gain for yourself becomes an obstacle for reaching team goals?  For example our famous “Delivering working software or Shippable Product Increment?”.  That’s in conflict with the laws of putting together successful teams (Ref: Benne & Sheats).

We have to maximize team dynamics by taking into account vision and goals of all involved individuals.  Translated in political terms it’s Glasnost or transparent management, open to debate.  Organisations should open up their management and be completely open about their policies (yes, from highest management, involving all).  By using the S-model and experience coaching teams are directly involved in reaching goals, self-organising with management support.  Experience coaching can work in matrix style, horizontally forming groups that create value.  In efficient organisations that care about their employees there is no room for autocracy.

S-model: Coaching Growing Teams

Leaders help teams best by unlocking their potential enabling them to grow.  Coaching techniques enable teams to grow.  The S-model for Self Coaching teams help teams & Agile Leaders to constantly be aware about evolution of team and individual maturity. Furthermore it provides transparency to the team about their performance and growth path.

S-model for Team Self Coaching
S-model for Team Self Coaching

Coaches need to adapt to personal situation in teams. Depending on their personal experience and confidence they have certain needs for coaching in order to reach goals.  Coaching poker is a helpful tool for the team to see the experience present within the team.  Interaction between team members will indicate their uncertainties and needs in a highly efficient manner.  Just as with planning Poker we form an image on where we position ourselves in the S-model.  Depending on the outcome one of several approaches may be chosen by the Lead Coach:

For each topic / Coaching domain (Example:  Requirements and test management using a new ALM application)

  • The team still needs to grow towards their potential but we have the required experience within the team (expertise with a few people).  In this example the ALM application expert would be available to help out the team.  Experience coaching provides the backbone for the team to grow.
  • The team is currently unable to cope with the provided challenge, external help will be required in order to build up the required expertise.  For example when there is no testing specific ALM experience available.
  • Too many objections lead the team to find another option to do the same in more efficient manner.  Experience coaching is ideal to frame this innovative exploring by the team

In upcoming blogs I’ll discuss the behavior patterns for different teams and how they affect team dynamics.

Continuous improvement with Agile Profiling & Experience sharing

Agile Profiling is a coaching technique founded by Davy Benoot to realize continuous improvement for self organizing teams.  The main goal of this technique is to focus on optimizing activities that provide value to teams and the individuals within the team.  Unlike traditional process improvement models that are focused on documenting stable work processes (To-Be situation) practical coaching and NEO value structuring those activities that are under constant change.  While the team explores ways to cope with the challenges at hand the practical coach makes sure this happens in a organized manner.

ValueGrowing Continue reading

Structuring Agile Process Quality

After a decade of Agile and inspiring principles on Agile or Lean KPIs I feel the need to hand Agile teams a structure for improving Quality and Performance of their self organising team.  The challenge today is to objectively measure and compare the work methods used in a manner that makes process aspects different from Velocity, Estimation Accuracy visible.  Effectively reaching out to teams handing them tools pointing them to new ways of working to improve on their quest of delivering business value throughout Agile projects they are working on now and in the future.

My experience as Test Manager delivering visibility on Software Quality and leading part I’ve taken in Process Improvement give me a unique insight in this matter which I’ll share.  Are you missing the profound understanding you have on workflow challenges you had as an experienced team member after you became a manager?  Are you able to separate important feedback from the team from an individual view on the situation?  As long as it blocks progress for some tasks it’s important?  Sure I agree, but how does it hand you an objective lead to where the team requires additional Coaching to realize process improvement?

The internal working of the team isn’t important as long as they are able to deliver what is required at the Quality and Velocity we have planned for.  Which tools you have to identify those aspects of the team workflow that require you to Zoom in and have a closer look?  Is it important to know the details of an ever changing way of working, usually not.  Usually complexity and team experience give an indication on the approach you should take.

In Agile teams it’s most efficient measuring progress by measuring delivered value by means of completed story points & burn down charts, however this doesn’t give the self organising team sufficient insight on how the team operates and how to improve on Agility and Process Excellence.  in order to effectively Coach them to improve team dynamics and efficiency we should measure the team values and learn the team how to improve Agility.