Becoming a High Performing Team
What is a High Performing Team?
Often in my travels as a Coach I have had leaders and teams ask me “How long does it take to become a high performing agile team?”. My response back is usually “How long do you think it will take you to become a learning team and adopt the agile values so that they are embedded in your heart, mind and soul.”. Not an answer that leaders or teams want to hear, but an answer that has a lot of truth.
See high performing teams are not afraid to do what is right, they feel safe to be authentic and vulnerable, they make decisions together and they treat failure as an opportunity to learn. They are committed to the goal of the team and to each other. They deliver value consistently while overcoming obsticles and challenges together.
To do this, a high performing team needs to adopt a set of values that will guide their behavior and beliefs. The Scrum Values of courage, focus, commitment, respect and openness will benefit any team – even if they are not using Scrum – because these values enable empiricism (experiential learning) and collaborative teamwork.
High performance is not about doing agile perfectly, any team can master that, but the beauty of a high performing team requires a deeper change – a change in what the team values that then will drive a different set of behaviors which lead to a different set of outcomes.
Why do values matter to a High Performing Team?
The reason so much focus is placed on values is that people’s beliefs, personality and behaviours are deeply rooted in their values. Values motivate leaders and teams to act in a way that supports what they value. Values help leaders and teams make decisions.
Teams are not static – they are truly a living being that changes and evolves. Teams are comprised of individuals that have values, personalities, behaviors, experiences and beliefs that they bring into the team. The goal is to help the team and the individuals that lead and make up the team create a shared set of values that will drive a shared set behaviors that create positive experiences which then enable positive outcomes around focus, innovation and learning.
As teams adopt the above Scrum Values, each team member has a journey of unlearning and learning. Removing fears, bias, old beliefs, closed mindsets and behaviors while learning new values that inspire healthier mindsets, beliefs and behaviors is super tough. It requires each team member to commit to doing the growth work needed to create a healthy team environment.
It takes time for leaders and teams to go through this mindset shift and unlearning/ learning process. Each sprint provides opportunities for the leaders and teams to try out scrum values and inspect and adapt their mindsets, behaviors and beliefs. The more the individuals on the team grow, the more the team grows collectively.
Create a safe environment where learning can thrive
Learning and unlearning cannot happen if leaders and teams do not feel safe to explore and experiement with decision-making, ways of working and collaborating together. Scrum the framework does not guarantee a safe environment. By leaders and team members regularly inspecting their behaviors and having open discussions around the scrum values, teams can build the safe environment needed to create a learning environment.
It starts with you…
Becoming a high performing team starts with making small changes in how you show up every day and collaborate with leaders and team members:
- Encourage openness by allowing all team members to share their opinions openly.
- Value team members by allowing them to shine and share what they know. Thank team members for sharing.
- Team members should accept mistakes and allow for experimentation. Emphasize that mistakes are acceptable and are a learning opportunity. Hold leaders accountable when punishment occurs.
- Conflicts happen – they just do – team members should learn how to conflict in a constructive way.
- During retrospectives, openly discuss the Scrum Values and discuss as a team what team behaviors, beliefs and mindsets are limiting the team.
- Gratitude goes a long way – practice talking about as a team what the team is thankful for – both individually and also collectively.
- Take the time to invest in team building not just when the team is forming, but also as the team is evolving. Setup a weekly half hour where team members can just come together and chill.
- Inspire learning by allowing team members to spend a week of deep learning every 6-8 sprints.
- Pick a Scrum Value for the team to focus on for a few sprints to inspire growth. Have open and frank discussions around the scrum value.
- Adopt a spirit of enthusiasm and positivity – see the glass as half full instead of half empty.
Never stop exploring this world called “Agile”!