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How to Develop a Team’s Ways of Working

by Mike Dixon, 03 April 2019

Whether you’re inheriting a mature team, have new people joining an one, or are fortunate enough to build a new team from scratch, you’d want to make sure that it is healthy, happy, aligned, and motivated.

As people come from various different backgrounds and experiences, it is extremely important to ensure that we are all on the same page.

How might you do this?

Something that has always worked for me is facilitating a Ways of Working Workshop (WoWW) – a mix between a Retrospective and a Futurespective that you have probably experienced in agile delivery environments.

The WoWW is designed to identify all the great things that we love about working in teams, acknowledge all the things we don’t, and come up with a team promise – or manifesto of sorts – to which we can hold ourselves accountable.

We can then hold team retros and discuss how we are performing as a team, evaluate against the team promise, make improvements, and support our teammates where needed.

How do you run a Ways of Working Workshop?

Allocate at least half a day for the whole team,
book a large meeting room with a whiteboard – don’t forget the whiteboard markers and eraser… And the drinks and snacks!

1) Make time and focus

It’s important to remove as many distractions as possible; phones set to do not disturb, laptops left on desks, and tell others outside of the team where you are so if there is an emergency they know where to find you.

2) Set the scene

When getting everyone together, it is essential to be clear regarding what the session is about and what you are expecting to get out of it.

In this instance, it’s to gain a collective understanding of what makes great teams based on people’s experiences and draft a team manifesto which can be referred back to, so the team can hold themselves accountable and in check.

If this is one of the first times that the team have come together as a whole, an ice-breaker might be an excellent way to start. For example:

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors: Break off into pairs and compete in a ‘best of three’. Whoever wins matches with another winner and plays again. The loser follows and cheers on their winning opponent until there are only two people left in the final face off.
  • The Agile Penny Game: This game does two things; firstly it teaches the importance of batching work, which works well for agile teams. Secondly, it promotes teamwork which is the point of the Ways of Working Workshop.

3) The Retrospective

Hold an open discussion around what people have enjoyed and disliked when working in teams. Ask the team if they are happy to shout things out or write on post-its then discuss after. Remember to be led by the room; you are facilitating, not driving.

4) The Futurespective

Once we have a common understanding of our experiences in great and not so great teams, it’s time to discuss how we want to work together; what behaviours, attitudes and values we want to carry as a team.

We want to consider this as a future goal – an aspirational way of working. It takes time to form new bonds, and for teams to appreciate and build trust in each other.

Having a set of promises or a manifesto can help foster the right behaviours to get you through the four phases of team formation; forming, storming, norming, and performing.

5) The Team Promise(s)/Manifesto

At the end of the Futurespective section of the Workshop, you should have a clearly defined set of statements which the team has all agreed signed up to. Capture these, save them, print them out, and have them visible in the office where you are working.

Run team retrospectives where you hold each other accountable and in check. These manifestos are not commandments; they’re owned and created by the team and the team can evolve them as they mature, as new members join, and as the team continually improves.

Here is an example of one of my team’s manifestos:

Suggested ways of working

So you and your teams can try a Ways of Working Workshop, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. Remember: communication and collaboration with each other, and the client and their teams, is paramount.
  2. Work as teams; ensure everyone contributes and is heard. For larger teams, break into smaller groups for activities, and have each other’s backs.
  3. Be mindful of time – if scheduling or attending meetings ensure you understand the agenda, times and availability of participants
  4. Be open to new thinking and accept there is no one way of doing something
  5. Recognise when energy levels are flagging and you or others need a break.
  6. Manage your emotions and monitor the team’s emotions. Make sure everyone is there supporting each other
  7. Stick to one conversation at a time!
  8. Build and select, rather than agree to disagree – you are trying to build on your good ideas, not tear down bad ideas. If there are disagreements in approaches then look to spike, evaluate, gather data and decide as a group.

Off you go!

 

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