Acting on Actions

Every time I ask about team’s challenges with retrospectives, a recurring theme comes up: Acting on Actions. I hear, “Our team doesn’t follow through on our plans for action.” Or I hear, “Our team never identifies improvement actions.” Both are retrospective “smells.”

Adaptive Action Method: An HSD Retrospective

Diana has written previously about the Human Systems Dynamics Institute and their excellent program that provides models and methods for dealing with our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world of complex adaptive human systems. In this post she focuses on the HSD Adaptive Action model and its unexpected connection to retrospectives:

In 2006 Esther and I introduced a Flexible Framework for Agile Retrospectives, a series of stages for designing effective retrospectives: Set the Stage; Gather Data; Generate Insights; Decide What to Do; and Close the Retrospective. We recommended a recurring cycle of retrospectives after each iteration as a process for the team to "reflect, tune and adjust", as the Agile Manifesto principle decrees.

Project Weather

Add "Project Weather" to your retrospective design to both "Set the Stage" and "Close the Retrospective". As an opening, it provides a useful segue into creating a shared story and begins the process of gathering data. As a closing, it illustrates any shifts in team members' perspectives that have occurred as a result of their collaboration in the retrospective.

To Prepare:

Create a pre-drawn flip chart with a heading at the top: Project Weather. Add hand drawn graphics across the top, like a sun coming out from behind clouds, clouds and rain, or even the occasional tornado! Divide the flip chart...

An Opportunity: Strategies for Responding to Today’s Unpredictable, Complex and Emergent Environments

As part of my commitment to my own professional development, a few months ago I attended a certification training program on effective practices in organizational change and leadership development. Although it required more time commitment than usual on my part, I found the experience well worth it. I would make the same decision again if I had it to do over. So when I heard that the Human Systems Dynamics Institute was bringing its HSDP Certification Training Program to Portland in January 2012, I wanted to share my experiences and how the HSD methodology has positively impacted my practice and my work with my clients.

Teamwork Required

Our experience thus far has been that while self-organizing teams may enable the organization to operate from day to day without active management, a more integrated organization and more productive teams make the value-add of managers highly transparent and place a premium on specific leadership skills.

From Adam Light, Chris Vike and Diana Larsen. "Teamwork Required: Managing Agile Application Delivery in a Matrix Organization", Cutter Agile Product & Project Management Executive Update, Vol. 12, No. 19. October 2011.

For a free download of the article pdf, register at the Cutter site. You can also order reprints from Cutter to use...

Recognizing Impediments

Team member: How will we know when we've found an impediment? What do they look like?

Sponsor: How can I know what impediments block our teams' productivity?

Scrum Master: How can I get the team to mention impediments in our daily meeting and retrospectives?

Product Owner: Why is everyone whining about impediments? Why don't we just get the work done?

It's all fine and well to say identify and remove impediments but often we bump up against a stumbling block, find a way around, and make things work anyway without further thought. It's second nature. Moving forward is what's important. And,...

Agile Teams

Do Don't Try

Martin Jul writes about a retrospective activity in the post “Retrospectives - Adapting to Reality.” He describes an interesting process for highlighting issues in the Generating Insights part of a retrospective session.

Avoidable Heroism

Today I invented a phrase (at least I think I invented it because I haven't heard anyone else say it): "Avoidable Heroism."

I invented it in response to a question, "Should my team work on the weekend to meet a commitment made under their control?"

Now, I don't know the background behind this question. Maybe it's perfectly reasonable for them to work on the weekend. Maybe they have no agreement about sustainable pace. And, it raises a few questions in my mind. How often does this happen? How far from the commitment are they? When was the first, best opportunity to...

Agile Teams

Retrospective Short Subjects II

In Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great!, Esther Derby and I include a collection of activities we called, “Short Subjects.”

After Gathering Data, these useful activities provide relatively quick ways to review event, effort, and response data; reflect on the implications of the data; and Generate Insights about team experiences.

Teams Retrospectives

Feeding each other

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced many great team building moments, activities and events on several great teams. One of the best, involved feeding each other.

In Fearless Change, Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising counsel that a pattern called "Do Food" "makes an ordinary gathering a special event" and reference Christopher Alexander’s pattern "Communal Eating." Linda and Mary Lynn note, "sharing food plays a vital role in almost all human societies to bind people together and increase the feeling of group membership." Eating together has a long and documented history in building shared culture.

Teams Leadership

Generative Collaboration Model

Derek Neighbor’s post about Patrick Leoncioni’s team dysfunctions model prompted me to share a model I developed many years ago for work with self-directing teams. Esther Derby and I use the model as part of our "Secrets of Agile Teamwork: Beyond Technical Skills" workshop.

Agile Teams