The ultimate agile team constellation

I often got the question “What’s the perfect team?” and the answer is as always “it depends”. The reaction is usually the same; some angry looking eyes. :-), I wonder why?

I can’t answer the question “What’s the perfect team?” but I can give you some tools and ideas in the process of creating a great team. But then it’s up to you to do all the necessary work.

First you need to destroy the fixed mindset of the ideas with roles, process and tools and try to see people in your organization as different talents that you have in your portfolio to succeed with your main — vision and goal. If you can’t let go of your fixed mindset then I can’t really help you. I guess you are reading this blogpost just because you have tried many times creating teams with this not so agile mindset and it did not go as you expected, right? So get rid of tit for a while and we can continue.

Don’t see people as front-end, back-end, designers and testers etc. The layers and the silos creates trust issues, creates bad WIP (work in progress) limits, creates a complex team before a simple productive team. It’s harder to replace layers, and people with a special role if she/he get sick and so on. If your main tool to handle team maturity is reports, forecasting then you are in trouble. Those things is an early indication of ineffectiveness in your organization.

As one of the Agile manifestos point out:

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”

This is why I want you to erase the idea of roles. You can add roles later on if you want to but for now you have no clue why you need one therefore there is no roles ok? Good 🙂 . All you need to know is that you need talents to succeed not roles. You need individuals that can interact with each other not build walls with layers and silos ok? Cool, lets go on.

“Each team should be full-stack and responsible for taking a component from idea right through to production. Don’t divide by layer (frontend/backend/data) nor by activity (analysis/development/testing). Both layer and activity boundaries have rich communications across them. Remember the central importance of Conway’s Law.”
– Martin Fowler

Next step is to understand how your employees and your self are as person and how to motivate the uniqueness within each of you, to do so you need to understand what motivates us. Dan Pink have a wonderful RSA Animation and presentation about this. I suggest you take a look at it before reading further because it will help a lot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

“People can have two different mindsets, he says. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their talents and abilities are carved in stone. Those with a “growth mindset” believe that their talents and abilities can be developed. Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness. Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve.”
― Daniel H. Pink

To understand what motives each person in your organization you need to understand them better. Get in touch with their intrinsic feelings. There are many tools for this. One of the easiest tools is using the same ide as with personas and add some gamification in work. Instead of just identify personas for the project you shall work on do it with your organization. Let each individual create their own personas profile with the same main principle and hang in on the wall so everyone can see it and get more knowledge of each other. What’s their motto, what interests do they have? What’s character traits does each individual have? Skills and talents? It’s very important to understand your team mates, because you shall work with them. 🙂 In agile you take command to lead together with your team mates to do so you need to understand how they are, there positive sides, negative sides so you can easily together help each other feel well and get respect for whom you are. The same way you create respect for your family and children of your (if you have any.). Because the domain is called work it doesn’t mean that it shall not have the same principles needed as with the domain family. There are many more tools for this in Agile and Lean Team Startups. But let’s talk about that in another blogpost.

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As soon you know more about the person, who she/he is its time to go to next level. In the real world you always have your employees for loan. You don’t own them; they are there for you if you don’t motivate them they will leave for someone else that does. People will come and go, therefore it’s important to understand that we need to be open for beginners within our organization and a proactive plan to make them step up towards the expert step.  I don’t like the idea to rank a person as a whole. Like businesspeople do with titles as Junior and Senior. What does that say? What’s in the gray zone between this junior and the senior? And when does a junior become a senior? When he/she knows more than the boss or have worked for ten years?  If you think you can work with the same thing you did in one year repeated nine times and then think you have ten years of expertise, you are wrong. Sure you have worked ten years but you are for sure only an expert repeating the same thing over and over again. So as with the roles get out of the box and get rid of the ideas regarding junior and seniors. Business peoples just created them so they can put different prices on their head nothing more.

“…Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done…” – 5th principle behind agile manifesto!

What I found very useful is the Dreyfus model. Dreyfus model does not rank you as a whole it just ranks you for each individual skill and talents of yours. For example, you might be very good in golf and maybe an expert in golf. But for the talent painting you might be novice. You can draw some lines but you are not very good at it.

Dreyfus models have different states in each individual skill of yours. Dreyfus have five states each of them different mindset based of knowledge, experience and skills.

1. Novice – Need rules and clear guidelines.
2. Advanced beginner – Need less rules , uses guidelines, but without holistic understanding
3. Competent – Develops conceptual models, sees actions in long and short terms
4. Proficient – Sees situations holistically, will self-correct based on previous performanc
5. Expert – No longer relies on rules, guidelines, or maxims, works primarily from intuition

dreyfus-model-of-skill-acquisition

Do you want to know more?
Read more:  
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887319/
or
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_model_of_skill_acquisition

As soon you have the tools and knowledge about your organization and people’s talents it’s time to create the team.

The best principles for combine talents is like creating software, don’t decide architecture, techniques, platform before you understand the project. So DON’T create a team before you understand the vison, goal and type of software. Is it desktop system? Does it need many integration specialists? Is it a Webb tool? Is it e-commerce? is it a highly transactional system? Does the customer use any own system we need knowledge about? Like Navision? CMS and CRM of any kind? Is responsive design a requirement? This is typical questions in a startup and as soon you know this you can create your fabulous team. Try to pick people as full stack as possible or at least people that can work cross many functions. Like the image below. (The color indicate a unique talented individual, not a role. The columns just indicate required skills needed for the project, they are not roles just requirements for the project. It needs design, it needs a front-end and so on…)

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The above image describes this.
Blue person has skills in design, front-end development (sass, less, html, javascript) and understand testing. The orange person has some knowledge of design maybe a novice in design but can help with design if needed, the person also has skills in back-end coding and testing. The green person has little talents in front-end and more skill at back-end and testing. Can be a great mentor for the team regarding TDD, system testing, regression testing and so on, And the yellow one is more like a full stack person that can help in all areas if needed.

Tips: It’s not good to put only experts in one team, novice in another. Spread them out if you need to increase the skills overall in your organization. The best suited person to help another to go from one step to the other is the person that just left that step.
So if you need someone to understand angular for some front-end work it’s easier to add an advanced beginner to the team if you also got a novice talented angular to the team, instead of just add experts in that area. The advanced beginner can more likely explain the problem better for the novice person over an expert talented person. Because they mostly talk the same language.

As soon you have your team-setup you can start asking your team what necessary service functions they need. Service functions can be cross-functional mentors, it can be a product owner if the team think they need one, it can be an agile coach, a team leader or scrum master if they feel they need that kind of service. This is a big change from the old traditional organization design. In this case the team create the process. It’s not strange at all even if it feels little odd, the team are the people that shall make it possible so the only correct thing is letting the team get what they need to succeed.

Remember that a development team in agile is not just developers. People in the whole process of creating a project are the development team even the service function competences is part of the team.

Remember, a named method is not a silver bullet so you need to be open minded. You can simple collect information by checking what correlations and interaction you got between the customer and teams. Maybe you need a waterfall approach, agile-waterfall, scrum, scrumban, lean, XP or your own setup of tools and processes. Maybe you just need to use Kanban and no project owner and such because the team are the domain experts together. Why add extra waste when there might be no need for it?

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It is important to not fall back in old ideas like the project manager where he/she is supposed to handle everything. Then you are back at the main problem again and you have just wasted your time reading this blogpost. 😀

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Who is Johan Normén?
Johan Normén is 37 years old, work as a speaker, mentor, team leader, agile coach, and senior .net developer at Softhouse in Gothenburg Sweden. He has over 18 years business experienced and worked in many different projects and roles. Was one of the creators of Swenug (Sweden .Net User Group) with over 3000 members all over the country. He started the computer era as game designer at the age of 12 with his Amiga and team. He has been nominated as the top 10 developers in Sweden in the Swedish version of Computer Sweden 2015

Twitter: @johannormen

How can I add style rules to give visual feedback in TFS Online regarding untouched working items?

I love design and I love visual reports and alarms if something is failing. I do not love text reports though they don’t give much based on real time information and you must read lots of text to say some few things. That’s one of the biggest ideas I love about Kanban boards and the creativity for teams to make it more self-reporting by look at the board.

In this blog-post I will give you a tips how you early can indicate if a user story hasn’t been change for a while. Let say you have a velocity of doing x-total user stories a day. Something happens on the way and you want it to be visual for the whole team.  Maybe you thought you could handle more user stories than predicted in the sprint? Or in your daily work? Maybe you have spent to many days on a user story without anything happens to it and want to indicate a visual risk?
And to indicate this you want the Kanban board to tell you early that you might be in trouble so you can fix the problem early in the iteration.

You can simple visual this by adding styling rules in TFS Online that change the color of the User Story or the Task if you want to.

I my case I love the idea to indicate a warning if the card hasn’t been processed for a while. First I want to indicate it with orange color that tells me: “Hey, we might be in trouble here, but we are not in the critical state yet! :/ And I also want to know if my User Story is in a critical state. “hey, dude this User story takes too long, there is a high risk here! 😛 ”.

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Like this image above.

TFS Online does not have all the feature I wish for when created this blogpost. So I will use the “Changed Date” attribute on cards. What I really wanted was some kind of Deadline Attribute. If using #NoEstimate and 1-2days UoW (Unit of Work) approach it could be set to 2 days from the date when you approved it, and start working on that item. Or if using Scrum Model and add estimated times on the tasks you can set the deadline to the time summarized by all the tasks and some extra risk factor if wanted.

I used LeanKit before and added deadline to cards that the customer needed to handle before it was in the Definition of Ready State. To let them understand that something needs to be done in two days, if not we need to put it back to the backlog. Or a deadline for people that love to compete with them self-regarding their own task in a more “Gamification at work” way. Or if working with other stakeholders like integration partners and need to push them to be done with some tasks before a certain date, though they had not the possibility to go full agile with us.

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This is how it looks like in LeanKit if the end date is near. It gets yellow. If not, it’s white and over time it’s red. I love those kinds of Visual Elements and LeanKit have many nice features for it. So let’s hope TFS Online soon will have too.

To add similar rule, you simply go to the board settings.
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After that I added two rules.
I called them ”to Late” and “Out of Time”. The naming can be something different I just used them for this demonstration.

2

In the Styling rule I used the “Changed date” and @Today syntax. @Today is just the date of the actual day. You can use more advanced attributes if using TFS on premise.

For the “Out of Time” I added the orange color and wanted to get indication if the item hasn’t changes within a day.

Changed Date <= @Today -1

2a

The Card will indicate change when it’s moved to different states, when text is changed etc. But sadly it will not trigger changed date if a related task has been changed, and that’s sad though in Scrum projects you mostly work with many tasks for each user story. And it would be nice to indicate on the User Story level if a task has some rules you missed.  Eg. You might have forgotten to change the remaining time, and to indicate on the user story level that something is wrong would be a nice feature to let developers know that they have missed this. The remaining time is important for the burn charts etc.

And for the “to late” I did the same but red color and -2 days.

Changed Date <= @Today -2

You can have higher numbers if you like to. I just add -1 and -2 for the demo.
2b

And here is how it can look like in action.

You got the warnings. One user story is near critical state and the other one is already in critical state.
As soon you move the card it will change the date and the result will be normal again.

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Have fun playing around…

More tips:
How to color a card based on Tags or Title containing some kind of texts:
https://rockjohan.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/how-to-color-cards-in-microsoft-tfs-online-like-add-color-to-a-lean-hypothesis-card/

How to add DoD (Definiton of Done) you your columns in TFS Online
https://rockjohan.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/definition-of-done-dod-in-tfs-online/

Who is Johan Normén?
Johan Normén is 37 years old, work as a speaker, mentor, team leader, agile coach, and senior .net developer at Softhouse in Gothenburg Sweden.
He has over 18 years business experienced and worked in many different projects and roles. Was one of the creators of Swenug (Sweden .Net User Group) with over 3000 members all over the country. He started the computer era as game designer at the age of 12 with his Amiga and team. He has been nominated two time as the top 100 developers in Sweden in the Swedish version of Computer Sweden.

Twitter: @johannormen

Bring gamification into the agile framework

First of all, what is gamification? The word does not sound so serious right? It’s like… Shall you have fun at work? Who said that? I know that we all want to have fun all the time if we had the chance to choose. And we do have, that’s the best part of being human.

In short gamification is a way to add things and psychological ideas to make things more fun. Let start by look at our job situation.

Tasks in our daily work is mostly repetitive but dull. Goals in our daily work can be unclear, information often delivered at the wrong time. Failure is often forbidden, you don’t talk about it to often and you can get punished by your failure. Collaboration is often bad (not always but we tend to think that people who talk to much aren’t productive.), the autonomy is mid or low. The path to mastery is often unclear. How do I master? What way do I need to go to get from good to great or enter next level in my carrier at my work?

Those are very common issues all of them, but there are some few companies where they are not. If you are one of them I will congratulate you and give you the achievement of success… 😀

So what about games? Tasks are repetitive but often fun right? Yatzy is fun, we do the same thing over and over again and still play it. The goal is really clear, the one that get most points is the winner, it’s clear how to play, and what you need to do. The information is delivered on time (just in time). Failure is ok, if you don’t fail you can’t win. You don’t get punished if failing. Collaboration is there, you have fun, talk to each other, maybe even give each other some tips what dice you shall save or not, get better ideas regarding how to play Yatzy better and master it more.

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play” – Friedrich Nietzsche

We know all this, we have known this since the day we invented games, but why don’t we take all this knowledge and implement it in our daily work?

The answer is kind of simple, we need to collaborate and understand people in our organisation first to do so. We really need to communicate outside our boundaries of daily work. How many of you colleagues know that you like sport? But in general you love sport because you can help others to master it? How many of your colleagues love to draw, or learn by doing? How many of your colleagues sees the world by how the world sounds like rather then how it looks like? How many of your friends has emotion based on movies rather then politics? When you talk to your friends regarding trees, can it sound like this from different peoples?

I love this wonderful sound in the trees.
I love the green color on the trees.
I love how the leaves feel like in my hand.
I love the feeling to get rid of dead trees.

This is four different personalities. They all get knowledge in different ways, they all have different ways to communicate problems and so on. We often don’t see this because we are so busy in our own lives. If you play a game as a team you need to understand each other to have the possibility to win. And to do this you must learn to listen to each other and coach each other to mastery. This is one of the main ideas of the agile framework scrum. The American Soccer is the main idea of scrum. You must play as a team with each other to win. To do this you have a coach; a person that sees what you don’t see on the filed. The coach is there to help you get your minds and visions together. Makes you play the game together as a team. Some of you are better at running, others better at tackling and so on. You need to know this and put right person on the right job on the field to succeed. You collaborate for success. And therefore you also have a chance to win.

In scrum you have planning poker as a fun game for collaborating against the same goal. You have retrospectives to solve problems and add new smart and better tactics how to deliver high value with highest quality together. (Like the collaboration together how to defeat Gorash Hellscream in World of Warcraft). In Lean you collaborate all the time and use Kanban board (can be used in scum and other methods too) to indicate threat and visual goals and so on. Some people add a little island on the Kanban-board and put the avatar there if they are on vacation to add some fun to it. In one project we used Star Wars characters though the whole team had Star Wars in common. It was fun. I move Han Solo to next lane. 🙂

Many coachers use games in the start-up meeting as the “learn to know each other socially”-process. Who are you in real life and so on. It’s easy to add this “worker role”-role in you at your work and forget the real life-role. You are often another kind of person out side your job. It’s important to get knowledge about that person as well.  If not you become a hidden status user. Who are you to blame me? You don’t even know me.

In gamification we have four main player types and they all act different at work and in life.
You got the Killer. This one is the person that needs a winner and a looser. If there is no looser you haven’t win anything. We got the achievers, they are like the killers but the main different is that achievers don’t care if some one loses, the achievers just want to be better and need everyone to help him/her. We have the socialiser, the people that love to be around other peoples. Did you know that 80% of the persons on this planet are the socialisers? Did you even know that if you put a person in prison you rather be with the other insane criminals than alone in a room, even if we know it’s dangerous? The last player type is the explorer. The explorer is a person that love to see new things, how it looks like, the roadmap, the path even explore how it went.

If you think of the persons in your team, can you group them by those four games types? I bet you can, think about it for a while. Hey… I told you to think about it so stop reading for some minutes, just reflect on your teammates and see what kind of persons they really are.

1,2,3,4,5 Minutes later.

Hi, and welcome back. Was it hard? Was it easy? I bet you grouped most of them by now, and I also bet that suddenly you start to get another view of them, other feelings now then before right? A more positive feeling right? Kind of the same you get when you play games with your friends? (if not then you are probably in the wrong team, with people that can’t certify your type creatively.) :/

As a agile coach you can take this knowledge and add more items to your methodology framework to make the work more fun. Add a score board for the killers and achievers. Make the socialiser collaborates ideas around this score board. Let the explorer, explore the result. Add a team vision and goal charts on the wall to make the goal more clear. What’s the most important values for the team to succeed? If the team loose focus go to this team goal chart and refresh the main goal and why the values are so important for you as a team. Make the collaboration a rule rather than a punishment of some kind of time-consuming issue. Because it’s not. Maybe all persons in the team love music and work better with music on? What if they all love the “focus playlist” on Spotify? Why not add a speaker in the room and play it in the background for them? I bet you have more fun playing games or party with friends with music in the background right? We love music. Think of a gym with no music… will you perform better?

At the start up meeting let everyone create their own personas profile. Hang it on the wall with nicknames and an avatar. In this personas profile add interests, movies, music styles etc.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 15.04.20
(Image: this is from my Keynote I did with the same topic 2015 at SweTugg conference).

When working with customers you probably identify the personas to make better result for the customer, why not use the same ideas to make better result as a team? It’s no difference just that you suddenly get some focus. Focus that generate flourish (positive psychology).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona_(user_experience)

When a new team member enter the team, show him/her this wall, describe the teams goal and values and add this new person personas to the team-wall so others can see it.  (Maybe he is the main healer you always wanted? 😉 ) If you feel that you are in a conflict with someone, just go to the wall look at the personas profile and think why you see things different, enter the personas personality to reflect and act different regarding the conflict. It’s fun, maybe it will scare you, but games that add some drama and scary moments are more fun than games you will win all the time without any resistance.

Use user stories or something that the whole team feels gives them the best information regarding what to do with each task. Add story points and use that for the score board to reach high scores together if most of the people are killer and or achievers. And so on, be creative. To work shall be fun and successful.

Gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology…

Who is Johan Normén?

Johan Normén is 37 years old, work as a speaker, mentor, team leader, agile coach, and senior .net developer at Softhouse in Gothenburg Sweden.
He has over 18 years business experienced and worked in many different projects and roles. Was one of the creators of Swenug (Sweden .Net User Group) with over 3000 members all over the country. He started the computer era as game designer at the age of 12 with his Amiga and team. He has been nominated two time as the top 100 developers in Sweden in the Swedish version of Computer Sweden.

Twitter: @johannormen