My apologies for not posting on the theme of comfort last week. Technical difficulties with WordPress stripped my author permissions. Let me just tell you, that was LOADS of fun. I’m grateful to Elizabethmiller2 for putting herself and he learning out there for everyone just as I’m grateful to Steve Peha for doing the same. Thank you, both, very much. Here’s my very late post on comfort from last week.
Last weeks theme on comfort sent my brain all over the place. Personally, there are very few periods of my life where I can say I was “comfortable” and I think it’s because I’m wired that way. When I find myself close to comfortable, invariably, something changes and, more often than not, becomes somewhat UNcomfortable.
Comfortable can mean stable and secure. There’s a tremendous amount of value in stability and security. It allows us to do or try things we haven’t before because we KNOW certain things to be true. It’s important for people to achieve a level of comfort so they can then pursue levels of discomfort. When you take a look at teams, comfort may mean they’re not challenged – either by their work or themselves. Don’t get me wrong, we all need time to just breathe, but discomfort for a team probably means they’re challenged. When a team is challenged, some really amazing behaviors begin to emerge.
Discomfort generally comes hand in hand with change. The change can be self-inflicted or forced on us. Change, as we all know, is hard. A persons or teams ability to perform in uncomfortable situations can be influenced by several things. The chief influence, in my mind, is their environment. The environment needs to be safe and what I mean by that is one that is supportive. Teams experiencing discomfort will have different ways of dealing with it. Some may engage in some constructive disagreement (loudly). Others may hole up. Regardless, teams need to be given the space and support to walk through the change at their pace.
As a Scrum Master, the challenging part is knowing what to do when things are too comfortable, volatile or challenging. I have to say that I don’t have THE answer. I have some ideas to try.
- Ask the team to think of three things that would be impossible for a team to accomplish in your organization and why it would be awesome if someone could do it. Get a conversation going – blue sky the heck out of it. Then, ask them WHY they, amazing team they are, can’t be the ones to try. The worst that can happen is improvement.
- Ask if any team members would be willing to pair with another team member in a different role for a sprint and learn more about the role. If anyone opts in allow for it in the velocity of the team for that sprint and, in the following one, observe what the results are and call them out to the team. Then, ask if anyone else would be willing to try.
- Things change fast and furiously and can overwhelm a team. Get them out of the room. Go for a walk. Go for a long lunch. Give them room to breathe and not think about work for a bit. A brain break is a good thing.
- Have a mind dump exercise. Ask the team to write everything on their mind on a piece of paper and, when done, do a quick sort of In their control or NOT in their control. Then, creatively destroy all those that aren’t in their control and focus on the sprint and save the others for retro data.
1. This one is tricky because it’s probably not that it’s too challenging it just seems TOO big. So, what do we do when things are too big? Break it down. Go through an exercise to find the vertical slices with the team and find a simpler picture. Big challenges are often ones that seem TOO challenging.
2. What? Is there anything too challenging for your team? If they have created a vision, bring them back to it and remind them of all the good they have. Sometimes, you just need someone to believe in you.
Some of the best things I have done in my career have been during times of extreme discomfort. Admittedly, I have also done some of the worst things during these times too but, those horrible things helped me learn and prepared me for the next one. So, maybe it’s also good to remind yourself (or your team) about how strong and capable you are. What’s the worst that can happen? Even if you fail, you learn and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.