I was recently asked about how I’d go about tackling getting a new team working together nicely. I recently wrote a blog post (here) about dysfunctional Senior Leadership Teams, so wanted to continue that theme in a post & also talk about it on the Delivery Manager Daily which you can listen to the latest episode here if you won’t want to read this post.

I was asked to comment on several things;

  • A lack of process within the team
  • A lack of collaboration
  • Previous Team manager wasn’t a ‘people person’ which maybe has impacted the team helping to cause the first two points above

This new team lead wants to slow down the pace of the team to get these foundational things right & increase overall quality, which sounds sensible. So, what would I do?

  1. Retrospective

For any team build, a good retrospective is an important event to run. Run it well, off-site, with no ‘day business distraction’ & get some cakes, snacks & drinks in. Facilitate it strongly & well, ensuring it doesn’t fall into a moaning shop. Aim to list out paths to improvement. Get everyone to comment, ensure everyone is heard (very important this) & make the environment safe enough, so people actually speak up.

Use a physical board & get everyone to swarm around it, stand up, make it energetic, synthesise those post-its into grouped themes. Some will be operational, some team, some practical, some technical etc etc then summarise this into a deck & path of action. That ensures everyone not only feels heard BUT then has confidence that you’re going to help tackle some of these issues.

Put the improvements into your team backlog & allow space for this. That way those improvements can be measured.  A well summarised retro gives people confidence you’ve listened & understood too & you’ll only get the opportunity once at the start of your tenure to do this.

The benefit of getting this right too is you’re setting a standard of behaviour & attitude of what’s expected for collaboration.

For more on good retro’s, check out my blog here & podcast here.

  • Fixing A lack of collaboration

For the best way in my opinion to change behaviour is to demonstrate the behaviour you want. So if you want better collaboration then you set the standard. Bring people into conversations, explain the outcomes you want, explain the why (often missed) & encourage people’s input. Well facilitated stand-ups & not letting them go off topic, in fact well facilitated Agile events in general really help build a structure of discipline in a team which really helps provide space for collaboration.

Often the lack of collaboration is because of a lack of ability. If people are half working from home, or always working from home, agree to at least once or twice a sprint ensure people are physically together. Try & iron out some of the bad habits which can often be formed when we work from home for so long.

Don’t forget to praise too. But do this authentically. I often call people out for great attitude, behaviour our outcomes. But I don’t give that praise from ‘me’ as if I have some authority as a human being to do that, I just say thanks & how that has directly helped me & the team. Show appreciation & people will want to do more. Asana (A tool I’m a big fan of) has some great words on fostering collaboration in a team & you can read it here

  • Lack of process within a team

‘a process’ the definition being a defined set of agreed activity which when done in a specific order release some kind of value release. The thing with processes is they have to be suitable & adequate for the thing in question & not process for process sake. So I’ve often gone Rogue (or LEAN as I prefer to call it  ) & where teams have spent too much time trying to get Jira ticket format correct for example, instead I’ve got them to focus on the outcome & writing decent code. I make the decision on what’s more important on an ad-hoc case-by-case basis.

So try & turn the dials on when to & when not to have process. It must have understandable & agreed value-add for not only the project but everyone in it. There’s a good article here about processes & project management in software projects.

  • Be an effective ‘servant-leader’

A term coined within the role definition of a ‘Scrum Master’, the notion of servant-leader is fairly well known. You should exist to remove as many impediments & blockers for the team as you can. Communication issues, management, feature creep, complexity, all of that. Work hard to remove those impediments quickly to build up the trust in the team. They will work harder & happier.

Remember the 7 key issues of servant leadership;

  1. Honor Others (Before Yourself)
  2. Inspire Vision (Before Setting The Course)
  3. Choose Ethics (Before Profit)
  4. Empower Others (Before Personal Gain)
  5. Privilege People (Before Tasks)
  6. Balance Focus With Flexibility (Before Making Decisions)
  7. Serve With Humility (Before All Else)

There is a great article here on being a great servant leader with top tips