I love growing with a team, seeing them grow, and seeing them flourish. The journey of complex beings learning to work together in a productive and honest way, solving complex problems in an unpredictable environment. I really find it magical to observe when a team gets it just right.
I’ve been working with my one team for about 18 months, and over these past few months they’ve gone through some significant changes.
A new project kicked off, and all the most senior team members were extracted from the team to work on the new and exciting project. You can just imagine what that does for skills and experience in the team, as well as the morale of those left behind.
Way of work
The team was running scrum, even before I started working with them, however it just wasn’t working. They constantly had (have) an influx of unplanned work, that has to get done to support the business. This is not due to bad planning on their behalf, so it’s extremely demoralizing to get to the end of each sprint and realizing that they didn’t deliver on their committed goals. Trying to use the burndown chart to track their progress during the sprint – even worse. So, we switched to kanban. At this point there were a couple of individuals who were so negative about pretty much anything work related. I don’t think anything could really have made a difference, and even in retrospect I don’t think there was much to do to fix the situation.
New Team Mates
With the team short staffed for a while, we eventually got some new team mates to join in. In the midst of negativity it sure was hard for new people to get onboarded & productive. There was some undermining, and things got ugly.
Losing more people
We got to a point where the team was so dysfunctional that the product owner suggested having separate planning sessions with each individual. This was probably the same time that our product owner started looking out for another job, and before we knew it, he left.
A fresh start
Although we were now in a space where there were some crucial skills missing, the team had somehow picked themselves up, and started afresh with renewed energy. I was amazed to see how certain people, previously marked as problem employees, suddenly started to contribute to the team’s success, and coming out of the shell. The team has managed to fulfill all roles quite successfully, despite the fact that there were still missing skills.
I have to admit, I did not see all there was to see at the time. In retrospect, I can see the ugliness – the undermining of new team mates, and even purposeful ignorance on certain work items. The negativity is more clear when I look back, and I feel sheepish that I didn’t recognize it for what it was.
What I’ve also learnt is that when you get the right group of people together, who have a positive outlook, and willingness to jump in on things that are not their expertise, you can have a much healthier, more productive team, than when you have a team with the best of all skills, but bad attitude & outlook.