Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Best Team Building Exercise

Diana Wei from the Orange County PMI recent asked for recommendations for team building ideas. Some recommended a happy hour, or sailing, and I suggested doing a Five Dysfunctions of a Team offsite.

I had completely forgotten what I share every Scrum class - have the team discover their personal strengths! Over the past eight years, every department I managed, every new team I introduced Scrum to, we would do a strengths-based personality assessment. I was at a company in the Bay Area this week that had a new, heralded CEO, and I saw that they were already helping the change efforts by rolling out a personality assessment to employees. My impression is that, while many overlook these psychometric tests, great managers and leaders instinctively know the value of these tools.

There are several choices in this area that I have used and would recommend.

StrengthsFinder - Close to 10 years old, and still a perennial best seller, the StrengthsFinder assessment from Gallup will give you a list of your Top 5 Strengths Themes out of 34 possible, along with an action guide. Buy the book, and you get a key to take an online test that emails the reports. 

StandOut -  Last year, this book and new assessment came out from Marcus Buckingham, formerly with Gallup, was one of the first to write about strengths in the management best-sellers First, Break All the Rules and then Now, Discover Your Strengths. He's since written more books and created create videos on introducing strengths or how to truly cultivate them. You can purchase the test online, or buy the book and get a key to take the test online. It also includes an 18 page action-plan result.

Action & Influence - Brand new assessment from an agile training and coaching company that I think highly of, this assessment not only gives you your strengths, but it also maps that onto a grid of your teammates. Now managers can see in a nice chart where all the team members fit, and are able to quickly identify any gaps in the team, or opportunities to move people into roles that play to their strengths. The test is based on over a decade of research and work in psychology and organizational development.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teams, Being Smart Isn't Enough! You Have to Be Healthy

Some notes from hearing Patrick Lencioni at The Leadership Summit in August... 

Lencioni started by saying that much of what he was going to share were things we all already know, and quoted Samuel Johnson, saying "People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed."

For the second time during the conference, I heard someone talk about Southwest Airlines (the first time was by Jim Collins). Lencioni started his talk, as he starts his new book The Advantage, by sharing a story from Southwest Airlines. For those who don't know, Southwest is the most successful airline, in a very competitive field, when looking at financial consistency (143 consecutive profitable quarters, including the only major airline to do so following 9/11), and customer satisfaction (consistently at the top for lowest customer complaints, most on-time flights and fewest baggage problems).

Lencioni was at a leadership event at Southwest listening to presentations detailing Southwest’s values (the ‘Southwest Way’ - a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a FunLUVing), their unorthodox approach and the things they do to make their customers happy. He was sitting next Southwest CEO Gary Kelly. Lencioni leaned over and asked, "Gary, why don't your competitors do any of this." It was a rhetorical question, but he said, "Honestly, I think they think it's beneath them."

Building a Heathly Organization
Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in business. It is virtually free and accessible to any leader who wants it, and yet it remains ignored by most leaders and virtually untapped in many organizations. Too many leaders think it's beneath them. It's not measurable enough. Not immediate enough, not push-button results.

To better understand why this is, Lencioni used contrast. In order to maximize success and to be the best, there are two requirements for success. You have to do things well in these two categories:

Be Smart

Be Healthy


Minimal Politics


Minimal Confusion


High Morale and Productivity


Low Turnover

Being Smart is all good stuff. You should be solid in the areas of strategy, marketing, finance, and technology. It's only half of what a company needs to be successful, but gets about 98% of leaders attention. We are more comfortable with those things that are easier to measure and less emotional. But to change organizations you have to make them healthier!

Southwest is fabulous, not because they are smarter than their competitors, but because Southwest is so healthy as an organization. They get so much more out of their number of employees than their competitors do.

CEO's want to improve their companies, but it's like a classic scene from I Love Lucy. In the scena, Lucy is on her hands and knees looking at the carpet in the living room. Ricky comes in and asks what she's doing.
"Looking for my earrings," she replies. 
"Did you lose them here in the living room?" 
"No, I lost my earrings in bedroom, but the light out here is so much better."
CEO's know they are missing some things on the human, touchy-feely right side, but they are out of their comfort zone in dealing with them, so...they gravitate back to the left side. They focus even more on strategy and technology, etc. But the truth is, if we want to change the organization, we have to make it healthier.

Thirty years ago, the Smart side was new. There were lots of gains to be made by focussing on that side. But now, you can't distinguish your company by focussing only on the Smart side. You can have lots of great people working at your company, and they can all have the domain expertise to be awesome. But you won't be able to tap into it. You won't bring out their potential. Southwest's people aren't smarter than their competitors. But they use every bit of knowledge they have.

Organizational health is the multiplier.

The next post will be on "How do we do it?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Slice of Humble Pie

Yesterday, as I climbed up my back steps, I had a realization that made me swallow real hard - like a something difficult to get down. It was, as we knew growing up in Texas, a slice of "humble pie."

Photo by Joselito Tagarao via Flickr using a CC-BY license.

Eating a slice of humble pie means that you rightfully were humbled. It could be the team asked if they could rotate the ScrumMaster and you're the ScrumMaster. It could be your team building idea completely flopped. Maybe a friend told you that you were the wrong in some gripe you've been carrying around for weeks. Your stock picks have brought what saving you had to almost nothing. In some ways, it's acknowledging failure. Although you might have failed, you are not a failure. And as John Wooden said, You aren't a failure until you start to blame. Failure is good medicine for us, but we often don't want to take it. We avoid owning failure - it hurts - and turn to blame someone or something else. Humility allows us to cut out the cancer from the body of experience, separating the good from the bad. Keeping the good things we need to learn from what happened, while cutting out the stinkin' thinking. Sometimes we need to realize that we're not great at everything, a shadow attitude that makes it more difficult to really listen and value other people's opinions. Humility isn't thinking yourself nothing, it's not thinking more of yourself than you ought.

For me, it was realizing that some was better than me at what I do. Even though I had been doing it longer, and I had even helped them, they were now far past me. Rather than push the surgical knife away by saying that they were doing better because of luck and circumstances (more on that from Jim Collin's later), I had to acknowledge that this person was simply more driven and hard working than I was. And that was hard for me to accept. But owning this allowed me to pause and ask myself, "Why are not so passionate so as to be that driven and hard working? What is not clear about your vision and goals that it's not that motivational for you?" That was the golden take away from this experience - my personal mission statement wasn't clear enough, and certainly didn't have a clear strategy, to empower me.

Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great that Level 5 Leaders look in the mirror to assign blame. This core leadership character trait and value doesn't come easily and needs to be developed. We don't get promoted into some leadership platform and then begin working on getting these leadership traits. Unless we already have them, the sudden, new power (however small) will quickly begin to corrupt and blind us. Instead, we develop these traits which will then qualify us for, and pull us up and forward into, leadership opportunities.

Patrick Lencioni's Fart Story (yes, really)
Humilitas by John Dickson: How the Virtue of Humility Can Turn Your Strengths into True Greatness in all Areas of Life
Great Video Clip on humility from John Dickson and Patrick Lencioni from The Leadership Summit
Jim Collin's Good to Great Diagnositic Tool

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Sample iCal Calendar for Meetings in Scrum

In my Scrum training classes, one of the most common requests is that I draw up what a schedule might look like for all the meetings we've been talking about (Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum/Daily Stand-up, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective) in a two week sprint. I've created that sample here. Below, there are links to an iCal format for import into Microsoft Outlook and also a PDF version. On the iCal file, each meeting has a link to a description of the meeting, for additional reference.

Sample Sprint Calendar
The reason that I have sprints beginning and ending on Wednesday is mainly to avoid Monday and Friday due to common impact of people taking vacations, planning to be sick :-) or holidays. You could certainly use Tuesday or Thursday without much difference. Also, I have Sprint Planning and Sprint Review and Retrospectives happening on the same day. Although it makes for a very full day, that's what I commonly did as ScrumMaster with my teams. You could spread that over two days, but I choose to keep continuity over tiring people out (and in consideration of this, I did try to bring caffeine and sugar to the afternoon planning meetings).

Also, I wrote up a sample agenda for the Sprint Planning meeting. I plan to do the agendas for Sprint Review and Retrospectives as well.