Forming new teams

Posted: August 4, 2014 in Team
Tags: , , ,

This morning I ran an initiation session with one of my (merged) teams. As the team will be splitting into two smaller teams in the near future, I had to shift the activities a level higher than usual and didn’t cover things like team norms, but I thought I would share what we did do anyway as the team seemed to find the session valuable and hopefully you will too.

My agenda consisted of three parts:

  1. A discussion of the learning styles of the team members.
  2. A Definition of Done exercise.
  3. Identification of tasks we need to do to ensure everyone has access to what they need (I won’t discuss this in this post).

I booked the session for 90 minutes and, as it ran over lunch time, I organised some snacks which were available from when the team arrived. The room had a ‘loose’ structure with tables pushed to the side for the first part of the session to encourage engagement. I time-boxed each piece and allowed everyone to get up and get more snacks/drinks when I felt that the energy was starting to ebb.

Learning Styles

The team completed the learning styles questionnaire in advance and I put up the summary for all team members on flip chart paper. I circled any preferences that were very low or very strong and basically invited open dialogue and questions. Before starting, I emphasised that:

  • Learning styles are situational: you may have a different profile depending on the context in which you answered
  • Learning styles are PREFERENCES. Just because you have a low preference, it does not mean you cannot learn in the other styles.
  • Learning styles can change over time. For this reason, it is recommended one shouldn’t use data that is more than a year old.

For more on Learning Styles, you can refer to the following links:

Definition of Done exercise

I based this section on this guide.

As I had a big group of people (about 13), I decided split the group into smaller teams for some of the exercise. I noticed that the teams tended to be the same ‘usual suspects’, so I did a team shuffle between steps 1 and 2.

  1. In small teams (of about four people), the group listed the activities needed to get a piece of work from the beginning of development to production.
  2. Still in teams (after shuffling), they grouped the activities based on at what level they are done (ours deviated from the guide slightly as we don’t have iterations/sprints and have two ways of getting into production depending on the story).
  3. Each team took a turn to present back. The first team presented their solution as-is with the other two teams adding or discussing levels based on what they had.
  4. We created our Story Definition of Done checklist – as well as a Story Definition of Ready as it turned out we’d specified some of those as well.

Note that we didn’t move onto identifying impediments causing us to have tasks at the release level as there wasn’t time. I do feel this is a great way to identify impediments and ways for the team to improve their delivery process.

The above conversations led to a better understanding of new team members and a common understanding and agreement of what done meant. Engagement levels were greatest when the group was able to work in smaller teams and I felt the shuffling mid way helped to bring some ‘cross pollination’ into the process. One aspect we didn’t touch on, which I will definitely include when the teams split, is a discussion of team norms and preferred ways of working.

What kick-off or initiation activities have you found have worked well with your teams?

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