Lessons in Self-Organizing Social Systems

Last week, I had a chance to reflect on eleven years of the Retrospective Facilitators Gathering. A bit of background on RFG: I started the Gathering in 2002 with Diana Larsen and Norm Kerth.  Each year, the different set of volunteers organize the Gathering.  Continuity comes from linking the immediate past organizer, the current year…

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The Costs of a Struggling Team

Last week, I posted a mind map that shows the benefits of the team effect.  But what about the costs of a team that is not doing well?  A team that isn’t working well doesn’t have a neutral effect. A struggling team costs the people and the organization in engagement, quality, and money.

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But are they working hard?

Recently, I met with a group of managers who work in an organization moving towards agile methods. People seem to be happy working on cross-functional teams. They solve problems and work things out without management intervention. Best of all, they produce working software that the customers like. This makes the managers happy. But the managers…

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Empowering Leadership II

Every team needs leadership, even self-organizing teams. When I make this statement, some people assume I mean that every team needs a designated leader.  I can’t blame them, most people are accustomed to thinking of leadership residing in a role or a charismatic individual—a “born” leader. On self-organizing teams, there isn’t one leader.  Agile teams…

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Best at argument != Best ideas

I was talking to my friend Penny the other day about a team she coaches. There’s a really smart guy on the team. I’ll call him Bob. Most of the time Bob is an asset to the team. But when the team needs to decide on a technical solution under time pressure, he’s not. “But…

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Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules

Bob Sutton recently posted a piece on Team Guidelines.  The guidelines–all Mom and Apple Pie–where handed down by a new boss for the team to follow. The list starts with “Show Respect.” I find it ironic that the new boss is advocating treating people with respect. Arriving with a set of rules for other adults you’ve…

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Can a team have 100 (or more) members?

I recently set aside my analog wrist watch and started wearing a runners watch. It’s accurate to the second on the face, and to a 100th of a second on the split timer. I’ve noticed that when I have a precise measure, sometimes I use it, even when precision isn’t necessary.  For example, when someone…

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Team Trap #3: Failing to Navigate Conflict

“The absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy .” Eisenhardt,  Kahwajy and Bourgeois “(….or acquiescing, or avoiding).” Esther Derby Conflict is inevitable at work. Sooner or later, people will disagree about what to test, how to implement a feature, what “done” means, or whether “always” means 100 per cent of the time or some…

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Entering Groups

Most of the time, people integrate into groups well enough that we don’t really notice how it happens.  But a recent rocky experience got me noticing. Looking back over several teams I’ve observed and groups I’ve been part of, here are three (rather spectacular) examples of a newcomer failing to integrate. *** A skilled XP…

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Team Trap #1: Messing with the membership

One summer, long ago and far away, I was on a softball team.  It would be an exaggeration to say I played softball, but I did participate in practices, showed up for games and imbibed of the general post-game joie de vivre (beer).  There were a lot of team members like me. It didn’t matter…

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