This idea has been floating around in my head for some time and so decided to pull together a proposal for the Agile 2016 Conference.
This session was accepted.
Ever had a situation on a team where personalities are such that they are unable to work an issue? It happens all the time, doesn't it? I don't know about you but I've found that the advice for dealing with these situations is often very “touchy, feely” to the point where I feel I am being asked to become something I am not - something like a marriage guidance counsellor. Worse, I have found working this way creates an additional barrier and actually gets in the way of working the issue. I think this is because of the personalities that I am working with - people who see themselves as more analytical and introverted - but I suspect this is also partly an expression of my discomfort in using approaches that do not fit in with my personality. In either case, different “tools” are required to get good results.
The overall theme of this session is the development of approaches that are “experimental”, “observational” and “data-driven”. These approaches help drain negative emotional input to addressing the issue at hand while allowing the issue to be worked and resolved. The basis of the workshop is a presentation of thinking, ideas and approaches that I have used. Table exercises will be used to generate additional understanding as well as gather up experiences and approaches that you have.
The following references were used in the presentation:
The following notes are related to the preparation of the session.
Outline of the agenda for the session:
My own experiences indicate that there are a number of tools that can help in dealing with complex personal issues (see above for some ideas). I expect there are others and this session will allow us to gather these up. And I suspect that sometimes you will just have to sound like a marriage guidance counsellor when dealing with some situations and so I think we should discuss this as well.
An interesting article came out in the New York Times about building teams from the experience at Google. Some quotes I might be able to use to make presentation more interesting:
Some good ideas in Scrum Master or Arm-chair Psychologist With Angela Johnson that I should be able to leverage provided I can get the tone right.
Feel like ideas from Book “Lean Enterprise” by Jez Humble can be applied to teams. Want to encourage team to become generative. Lead by example.
Some good ideas from SAFe Scrum Master. New one for me was the "evaporating cloud" method (although I should have remembered). Other ideas include:
Another thing to do is to set up working agreements early to make sure we have a common goal. Means that we can refer to these to get past more sticky situations.
This idea carries further. If we are to have difficult conversations, then need to have a positive balance in our “team ledger” so we can do this. This means preparing ahead of the need - working together, establishing culture etc.
Think about the positive / negative ledger for your interactions with a team. Use social times to generate more positive items on the ledger. Or perhaps learning sessions (lunch and learn), book reports, etc.
Also note there might be something in General Stanley McChrystal's in “Team of Teams” although this might be less “team specific”.
Take idea someone has and add to it - “yes, and” versus “but” or “no”.
Need to be really clear about the premise. I have no problem with helping people understand personality profiles on teams, improved listening skills for team members, and so on. When this is part of the behavior of the team then these things will work. But there is a problem when we try to teach people these skills in the middle of a problem. You can see people get their backs up when they hear things like “I think this is what I heard you say” and “this is my reaction to this statement” and so on. I think part of this is also caused by “assumed superiority” that people seem to take (“let me help you”).
Image we are trying to avoid is something like Grief Counselling. Perhaps show picture of my Mum to get message across - she was a marriage guidance counsellor. Just provide examples of where I've used these ideas. Coach of coaches etc.
Add something like “sometimes they are just jerks”.
Add approach - ask them their opinion.
Add section about preemptive conflict resolution. See How to Preempt Team Conflict? - How to Preempt Team Conflict? I thought this article from HBR was pretty useful. It takes the discussion we have about setting up team working agreements one step further, suggesting a series of relatively short meetings to level set people’s views of each other based on how team members react to how people look, act, speak, think and feel.
See if I can tell a story about my learning journey of conflict resolution. Start with divorce, marriage guidance counsellor, etc. What I learned from those experiences and how I applied to work situation. End with family now and what we have seen. Not perfect. But better.
Add joke / comic about conflict resolution at the beginning?
Watch Lyssa video on conflict resolution Navigating Conflict on Agile Teams: Why "Resolving" Conflict Won't Work.
Plus idea from https://www.agileconnection.com/article/unsolvable-conflict-agile-teams that sometimes conflict just is and the way to address it is to create more positive interactions, not just negative ones.
Quotes from "Conflict Resolution" - Daniel Dana