Building Great Teams

In 2008, Computer World conducted a study of Agile rollouts, and found teams with coaching support increased their productivity by 300% (vs. just 35% for those without support). 

Our company mission is to build great teams and great businesses, and a big part of the solution for fulfilling this mission lies in helping teams and companies unleash the powerful capabilities Lean-Agile ways of working provide.

Does This Challenge Sound Familiar?

As organizations seek to jump on the “Agile” bandwagon, they usually start by evaluating specific frameworks like Scrum or Kanban, and directing their employees to framework-specific training. Since the dawn of these frameworks, an entire industry has emerged around certified training in these arenas. 

While acquiring knowledge is both necessary and beneficial to learning new skills, traditional approaches to learning Lean-Agile frameworks rarely represent the fastest or most cost-effective path to mastery. 

More significantly, traditional training options can cost thousands of dollars per person. And those are just the hard costs. They don’t including the non-working time workers devote to these activities. 

From what we’ve observed working across dozens of large-scale transformation efforts, these traditional approaches also rarely produce positive returns on the investments that are made.

A Different and Better Solution

Several years ago, our Lean-Agile experts  came up with a better way. Our unique and proven approach allows us to effectively support teams in far less disruptive ways and at a fraction of the cost. 

First, we de-emphasized framework-specific training. While each Lean-Agile framework defines its own roles, events and ways of doing things, they all fundamentally require developing a core set of capabilities.  So we decided to eliminate the broad swath approach emphasized by most formal training programs, and began “forcing” new practitioners to focus on developing one capability at a time. When we did this, something remarkable happened. 

Though teams were still working their way toward mastering a particular framework, focusing on core capabilities actually allowed them to become more proficient at an accelerated pace, produced deeper levels of understanding as to why specific frameworks did things a certain way, and made for more permanent changes in the way they thought and behaved. This last item is key, because we also discovered that once a team achieved a critical mass of proficiency across the core capabilities, they were able to sustain their own continued improvement on their own. This gives teams and organizations the option of reducing ongoing training and coaching with few negative consequences (such as stagnation or regression to old ways of working). Eliminating or reducing support will, however, dramatically slow the pace of improvement. This is an especially valuable option when coaching resources (or the resources to support them) are limited.

The other significant shift we made lay in addressing the reality of the modern workforce. Lean-Agile frameworks emphasize ways of working that are best leveraged by teams that collaborate in the same physical space. Yet co-located team members are fast becoming the exception rather than the norm. More and more companies allow their employees to work from home. More and more companies employ freelance professionals on a long-term basis. International outsourcing also remains popular. 

As a company whose workforce is distributed across the globe, we had to find ways to create high-performing teams in our own context. Our solution was to leverage a combination of modern tools and capabilities, many of which are integrated within ScrumDo. We also found ways to effectively deliver meaningful coaching services from within the platform.

How It Works

We start by asking our customers to clearly articulate the business outcomes they expect Lean-Agile ways of working to support. And if they can’t clearly articulate this, we focus on helping them get there.

IMPORTANT: This is very different from establishing a specific tactical objective such as “we need this team to deliver work more quickly” or “we need to improve the quality of what we produce.” If your teams (and our coaches) can’t align around the overarching business outcome to be pursued, then it's impossible to make informed decisions on the importance and optimal order of key tactical objectives.

In tandem with defining the desired business outcome, we seek to establish other key criteria around which to align:

  • The category of complexity associated with both the work and your organizational context
  • Your current and desired (if different) management mode, and
  • Your current (baseline) measure of core Lean-Agile capabilities. 

We’re going to jump over that first criteria of complexity and quickly review the remaining two, because customer partnership is essential to their creation. 

What’s a Management Mode?

Fundamentally, this relates to style of management. Most Lean-Agile frameworks emphasize a mode of management that calls for teams to define, manage, evaluate and modify their way of delivering work (with more general guidelines and boundaries defined across the organization). This is not always consistent with the level of ownership and control an organization may want or need to retain in its particular context. From a team level perspective, here's how we tend to view this criteria:

What are Core Capabilities?

Before the team can begin focusing core capabilities, we have to understand to what degree they may already possess these capabilities. We essentially establish a baseline measurement across 7 dimenstions. Here's how we often visualize this assessment:

It takes about a week to establish these foundational elements. Once in place, our coaches begin a deliberate course of guiding  teams and individuals through an iterative cycle of continuous improvement. At a high level, these cycles entail:

  • Defining the current condition as it relates to a capability
  • Defining a target state to achieve within a relatively limited time frame (2-6 weeks)
  • Defining contextually objective measurements for assessing progress
  • Defining specific action steps intended to make progress towards the target objective (this will often include introducing a core element of an underlying management  framework, which is how practitioners come to learn the particulars of specific frameworks)
  • Enacting those steps, measuring, evaluating and adapting as necessary
  • Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The process looks like this:

Are These Services Available as Part of My ScrumDo Subscription?

Virtual coaching services will automatically be included in the new tier of enterprise-level plans we're introducing in 2017. Lower tier plans will have the option to purchase these services as an add-on.

In the meantime, we’ve launched a beta program to harden our add-on program for release to the broader market. Starting Monday, February 6, 2017, interested customers will be able to sign up for a limited number of slots. 

Because each improvement cycle in our framework is directed at producing a concrete capability and tangible outcome, customers will have the flexibility to start and stop coaching services as needed. No long-term commitments. And your teams get the guidance they need until they achieve the targeted outcomes mutually agreed upon at the outset of each cycle.

We welcome the opportunity to help your team or organization on its journey to greatness. And it won't be long before we're only a mouse click away!

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