HPT - My Roadmap to Exceptional Teams

Sep 01, 2023 2:06 pm

Happy Friday,

Continuing on from my last email, where I wrote about the attributes of exceptional teams, I'm going to write about my high-level roadmap to how I go about building exceptional teams in less than three months.

Week 1 - Surveying

My first week was spent mostly in observation and listening to folks. During this week I want to know everything, but I say little. I'm taking it all in but looking out for:

  • Current perception of the team from the outside and within
  • Difficult personalities
  • Any recent or upcoming high-stress moments
  • Current performance and quality
  • Perceived process problems
  • Relationship with management and other peer teams
  • Stability
  • Technical challenges and problems

Week 2 - Bait

In this week, I'm still primarily learning, but I'm also establishing 1:1 meetings with everyone and probing a lot deeper into the topics from week one. By the end of this week, I'll have a very good understanding exactly what is going on with this team.

As I'm having discussions, I'm also finding a way to help somewhere somehow and doing it. This bit is vital as until I do something that everyone thinks is helpful, I'm just an outsider.

Last, as I'm having discussions with folks, I'm discussing a potential future. This involves discussing the problems we can fix and what it'd be like to work on that future team. Oddly enough, these conversations involve a lot of reassurance that we can fix things, and no, you won't get in trouble.

Week 3 - Organizing the Reset

Things are about to get very serious, and I have meetings with the leadership about what I've found, what I think I can do, and what the future looks like for them. I'm very explicit with them that if I'm successful and their leadership doesn't grow along with the team, that team will experience 20-50% attrition within six months of my work completion.

The work begins with resetting the team, which is a 1-3 day workshop that I spend this week interviewing folks about the meeting, common meeting dysfunction, getting management buy-in, arranging facilities, and finalizing the agenda.

Week 4 - Reset

This week I'm a month in and running a complex meeting with 100% of my focus and energy.

The workshop moves people from thinking as individuals to designing and agreeing to participate in a newly formed team. That team then addresses past assumptions about work and processes and scrum and finally solidifies their rules.

Week 5-7 - Hold the Pattern

The next few weeks are all about helping the team hold the team up while they get their legs under them. There will be temptations to return to the easy old ways, but consistent gentle reminders will rally everyone together.

I'm also working with leadership to show them how to better engage with the new team and prepare them for the point of no return. At this point, teams make a choice that is so transformative for them that they will refuse to return. Leadership has to be ready.

Week 7-8 - Point of No Return

With the team gaining confidence in themselves and having a few weeks of wins to celebrate, I ask them if they're ready for what will be one of the most rewarding challenges in their career. I only issue this challenge if I think the team is ready for this.

If the team agrees, I introduce a series of practices as standards for the team to adopt. These practices include pair/mob programming and WIP limits. The team makes a choice to accept the challenge of using these new practices.

Week 9-12 - Chrysalis

The new standards wreak havoc on everyone, undermining everything they previously believed about software development. I'm coaching them through what they are experiencing. This includes tears.

I'm also working with leadership now to teach them how to maintain what has started and to remind them they cannot go back without losing up to 50% of the team.

Within the first two weeks, the results emerge. The team is completing work in 1/3rd of the time (Or less). Their quality is higher, and they're making progress on so many issues that held them back for so long.

By the end of this period, they're galvanized that things are better now than they ever have been. They out-perform every team, truly feel a sense of belonging to their team, and never want to return.

Next, I'll write about some of the consequences that leaders need to understand.



PS: I'm looking to take on new clients, so if you're interested in how I can help make your teams exceptional, need help with products and roadmaps, or leading in a technical organization, set up some time with me!