It is inevitable and tempting that many decisions that affect the team are made without ever consulting the ones that are primarily targeted. Even if enacted with good intent. We still see this on a different scale when the software user was never consulted but significant choices were made in their best interests as well. Certainly there is a balance somewhere in something that might be too small or trivial and as opposed to another extreme where the user is relegated to insignificance. Taking choices to the teams and discussing solutions which impact them, is every bit as important as involving a software user.
- Find out what they think and how they think. This is a chance to connect and understand; an opportunity for innovation and creativity.
- Get impact that you might not have considered. Omniscience is not a human ability.
- Consider some alternatives and adjustments to the plan from the team. Consider even that sometimes you may not be thinking ‘heads-up’ enough for vision and strategy if this is something the team could/should already be capable of deciding.
- The team may not get the Last word or Decision – but include them in every step of the way. They are learning about the organization and processes. What they elect to change might surprise you and start to shift the organization or process in a better direction.
I wrote up a small Empowerment Quiz considering the posture of the teams I encountered. Were they defensive? Perhaps timid? Spending time having the right conversations, actions and decisions to become better teams is important for me. Ever made easier because the team is always important to me. To be able to represent the team as working on the most valuable work to the organization, that the team’s work was high quality, and that we were adjusting to meet the needs of the user is a great job to have. That a team is also improving the product, as well as it’s own skills, processes, and tools… even more so.
Shared leadership is a chance to grow and learn in an environment conducive to improvement. We help each other to be accountable. We are teaching and learning to see from different levels of perspective. Being an active part of the solution is far more valuable than swept along in the tide. The answers we search for and find ourselves tend to be more valued than the ones we are readily given. If there is a decision likely to involve them, before one is made, take it to the team.
“Do you feel empowered?”
This is a question a scrum master may look for and even ask directly of an individual or a team. The emphasis is usually on the teams as a group feeling able to go out and change the world. There is something very active here. Solutions don’t always find their way to you as you sit back… you actively have to seek them out and influence their outcome. There are many types of POWER… In 1959 an article by French and Raven pointed to types of power between people being based on:
- Experience and Expertise
- Being guarded about Information
- Legitimate role or position
- Referent or acceptance seeking
- The ability to grant Reward
Yet the best way to think of a definition of power is simply the ability to influence. Can you truly influence a person, solution, process…? In some areas we have more ability to affect whatever is before us. In standing back and self-examining at an individual, team, or organizational level, I might ask many questions. Each of which might be answered yes or no and support or detract from a perceived influence and being truly empowered. What are some of the questions that resonate with you?
Here are a mix of 50 questions that might come to mind:
- Can you purchase a tool or software package to try it out?
- Do you have the ability to purchase a book or have access to e-books with relevant topics.
- Did you learn something new this past week?
- Do you feel your opinion is heard?
- Is your suggestion or question being constantly interrupted before you finish?
- Can you try a new process?
- Do you find yourself actually holding back from making comments?
- Is everyone on the team participating? … Or is it the same one or two people on the team who get heard?
- Can we move the furniture, put up information radiators on the walls and generally change the physical environment?
- Did you feel productive?
- Was the customer proud of the teams solution?
- Were you making suggestions that improved how the team worked together or even solved a particular problem?
- Do you feel that your co-workers are constantly criticizing everything?
- Did you contribute to something in the agile community outside of the organization or team?
- Are you able to teach others in the organization?
- Does management ever attend any of the team stand-ups and is interested in what the team is doing?
- Does it feel as if you aren’t trusted to do your job?
- Did you see something that made you think “wow” or “yes!” the past week?
- Are you proud of your contributions? your team? your organization?
- I’m worried about what others will think?
- Are you working on the same thing that you worked on last month? -in the same way?
- Do you feel the organization recognized you?
- Was the team rewarded for its accomplishments?
- Was most of my time was wasted today?
- Why am I always thinking I am not very good at this?
- Is it easy to walk over to another part of the organization and enlist their help?
- Am I isolated?
- Does the organization continuously seek outside for best practices and know why?
- Did my team offer to help or include another part of the organization?
- Is the customer excited about the software and collaborates often?
- Do I feel burned out and that the pace is unsustainable?
- Do I think we are working on the wrong things?
- If you ask for something, how likely are you to actually get it?
- Do you feel as if you are growing and gaining experience?
- Did you have the opportunity to be creative or innovative in some way?
- Does your manager regularly set aside time for you?
- Are you an active part of the solution?
- Do you remember the last time you laughed?
- Does the team interaction seem forced and awkward yet?
- Do most tasks feel like a check box?
- Did I thank someone recently for something that really helped me out?
- Do I feel supported in my role by a couple different people?
- Can I truly look back over the past few months and see how much more agile and improved we are today?
- Are we making more work than we are delivering?
- Am I able to repeat and understand what our current vision is and the goals which align to them?
- Do I constantly receive or seek feedback from people?
- Can I walk into a meeting room or office when the door is closed? …And I’m not on the invite list?
- Can I say that my team ROCKS?
- Am I focused and really want this to be the best solution for the customer?
- Is this the best team I have ever worked with?
… And as with any super hero/heroine – use your powers for good!