Some time ago, when I did mostly freelance training and consulting work, I wished to be proud of a visible product, something to touch. With some other city-folk we started to grow a community around healthy food, directly from the biological farmers surrounding our city. Each with our own motivation for joining we connected city-people throughout class and culture. Our first successes made us proud, they triggered more action. Yet, when we grew in people and turnover, there were different ideas about the pace of change and the shape and structure of this community based start-up.
I learned that to let our initiative grow, I had to let go of what I perceived as my responsibility and vision of the company. Killing my darlings opened me up to experiencing other perspectives of growth and structure and I noticed that other got ‘hooked on’ to the start-up with their own motivation and contribution. To anyone who holds a position of responsibility: managers, specialists, and you who feels like protecting a certain ‘pure and purposeful way’. Without you, results would not be the same? No, they would actually be better if we let others in on our responsibility and co-create the organization!
Co-creation with Scrum
Scrum Teams often start as a multi-disciplined group of individuals with only little overlap in motivation for the job at hand. It is only after time and applying the Agile mindset that this group can become a successful collaborative team. First successes should be exploited, celebrated as acts of collaborative bravery. Not the individual specialists, but the group got results that count. While fuelling the co-creative fire, the group will start a dialogue how they got these results. The Scrum Master may facilitate a dialogue of individual motivations for the job. Get curious about group members and become a team.
Next to winning wars, every team will encounter struggles, and it may serve to bring them closer or to filter and leave the ones who are willing to collaborate to success. Dealing with struggles is a very culture-sensitive process, but in a Scrum Team it should be possible to get de- and re-assigned teams especially in the initial stages when finding out what the purpose of the team truly is. Unfortunately, in Dutch/corporate culture conflicts are muffled and frowned upon. Yet, especially for the Scrum Master, emotions at the workplace are great signals to help steer the team. Please attend and respond to them.
When a team has Sprinted long enough to recognize common successes and struggles, take time to look back as a team to see how the team and ways of working changed. Has the purpose of the team also changed, did it become clearer, more shared between team members, or do individual motivations and views on the purpose still prevail? Basically, take a meta retrospective on how you have grown as multi-disciplinary self-organising team.
Without support it’s hard to continue growing as a Scrum Team. Agile leadership creates space and stimulates people to be involved based on their motivation. Forging a common purpose eliminates forcing others to serve your own view of purpose. In Scrum Teams the general purpose is serving the customer based on the product vision and the Sprint Goals. The Product Owner requires the Team to co-create the vision so that there is a shared energy and motivation to go-get awesome products for the customer. In any case, an open dialogue clarifies positions and perceived responsibilities so that the right people stay to get the job done. The Scrum Master facilitates this dialogue minimally by providing a safe environment.
After performing with the team, there will be a time of adjourning and facing new challenges perhaps with another team and purpose. This cycle of giving your all and letting go is a normal lifecycle of teams departments and organizations. Volunteering to get in and out of job positions is more fertile than semi-forced labour in calculated positions. Sometimes we refer to Scrum Teams as having to be stable to perform. Yet, stability first refers to job security, a feeling of safety to give it your best shot, perhaps fail while trying some creative new approach. If we would feel free to make our own choices in the work community, our organisation, job engagement and performance would increase tremendously. As a Scrum Team, self-organisation means you have a licence to stretch your boundaries. Scrum Masters stimulate team members to experiment.
“Individuals and local teams find it hard to give up on their locally assigned responsibilities and open-up to others”
Being agile strongly correlates to co-creation with peers. Anyone who works around you, in other teams, departments, offices… they too have their own motivation for being on the workfloor, in their phone booths, behind their computer, or walking around (micro)managing. At Gladwell Academy we support agile transformations where we witness the growth from team-level to beyond the own team. This almost always takes a long time because individuals and local teams find it hard to give up on their locally assigned responsibilities and open-up to others.
It seems a waste, contra-productive and goes against locally assigned responsibilities to collaborate. Why would you need or even ask other teams anything? Yet, the value flow is based on collaboration and co-creation. Letting go of locally assigned responsibilities to open up for co-creation first seems counterintuitive with chaotic social interaction and misunderstandings in production responsibilities as results. However, you may count on an increase in employee engagement, a faster time to market, defect reductions and least importantly but nevertheless an increase in productivity in the longer run. But who needs local productivity, we need value for the customer…and that we can only co-create together!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ABRAM JANSE
Abram Janse is trainer and coach at Gladwell Academy. He supports the development of social innovation and specializes in interactive agile and change management training. Here he makes use of serious gaming, gamification and online learning platforms for a playful and fun transfer of knowledge and skills.