This morning I did something different – I helped out in unpacking and preparing a hot air balloon for flight (I KNOW!) . As part of the crew I was prepared to give chase, then retrieve and pack away this lighter than air flight class of transport. The pilot used air currents to do a giant vertical circle. I learned a few terms such as assembling the A-block (part of the harness from the balloon to the heater) and snaking the balloon – which turns out to be some work. Once the balloon has touched down and has emptied enough to lay horizontal on the ground – there is still a lot of air in there and you put your arms around the throat of the balloon and walk backwards gathering together the fabric and squeezing out the remaining air. All, in order to pack it away until next flight. What also was interesting, was the pilot’s intense focus as the balloon landed. The landing being the most important part! They may not seem to notice and or reply as they near the ground if a few of the people shout upward and want to chat. They may be completely focused on making the landing. A good thing right!
A Team Can Do More
It caused me to wonder about our interactions as teams at different levels – Just like that hot air balloon seeking different altitudes to use the different wind directions at those levels to it’s advantage. Is the team’s focus always on just bringing the sprint in for a landing? Just like at the individual level, a team can often ‘phone it in’ and not always be in the present. Some teams seem to work well all by themselves. However, a team can also show leadership, initiative, and continue to stay engaged.
Agile is an Active Thing.
Are we growing, learning, AND reaching out to teach and learn from others? I have had the opportunity to work with some REALLY great teams. At times I have scrum masters and product owners so focused on their own team’s less-than-ideal behavior that we forget to look around. Share a story with another team. For a single sprint we shared a planning, a daily stand-up, a review and a retrospective with one of the better teams on the program. This ‘pacing’ was a way to learn some good practices, keep communicating across the program, and get familiar with the people on another team.
Leaders Come From Great Teams.
A team – is it actively reaching out not only to take on work, but is the team showing a leadership among all the teams in a program? A team that is responsible and consistent is usually trusted and reliably so. Program leaders come from such teams. They recognize what really works well. The abilities to be visible, communicate, correct, and all those non-resume’ skills that cause us to consider what is valuable to the organization. These are the teams reaching out to the customers, working with (not against) the business. Making the right software. Are the individuals on your team seen as being an active part of the direction of the program? Is your team learning, growing, and changing the environment around them. Are we instead, just biding time, sullen and silent. Maybe bottling up some resentment until so much pressure accumulates and simply bursts through “full of sound and fury”. It is why we emphasize the actionable to align and transform that energy into something deliverable.
Opposites – Aren’t Always Attractive
It is always the extreme questions which I might flip through now and again in order to place a bit of emphasis on what we should do. Because behavior is in the extreme, the actionable answer may need to balance out such things as:
- Is the team creating story half-lives… always splitting off another several stories from an original and working continuously on a single original feature?
- Is the team always using criticism as a crutch to push back accepting any work at all?
- Does the team always prefer to be long-winding instead of short, concise and emphasize action and doing?
- Is the team too quiet, mostly browsing the web all day, or never to be found?
- Is there always an excuses and they don’t even look each other in the eye every single stand-up?
- Do other teams hesitate to dive into the past fixes and work this team has done because they know it will need extra care and effort?
Great Teams Engage!
Any team that engages with the program, engages with other teams, engages with other parts of the organization, adopts new tools to be more efficient, recommends and tries process improvements, helps other teams with architecture, pair programs or code reviews, will prove itself to be influential and valuable. Speaking of the work – are we only able to do one type of work? The team that has a variety of skills and wants to learn has many more options when the work in the backlog can be so varied.
Looking up from the work we are doing is a good thing. Scrum can be a type of disruptive innovation – making us hold something just a bit until it is appropriate, or even time-boxing the investment of our focus on a particular level or piece of work. Just as we look up now and again to ensure that the work we are doing is done well, we look to see if it makes our sprint goals, contributes and aligns with our release goals. Look across to see if any other team is floundering a bit, because if they fail, then the release may fail, and it doesn’t do any of us any good as a program. If one team fails, don’t we all? How early can we adjust or indicate the risk involved and move to mitigate, accept, or
We value the ability to adapt over following a plan. We are working on making the teams great problems solvers, achievers, and yes, leaders.
Knowing what needs to be done and rolling up your sleeves to become an active part of the solution. The ability to navigate at any level. That is the magic of being engaged.