Wiarton WIllie predicts six more weeks on winter..Yesterday was Groundhog Day. Ontario’s Wiarton Willie (left) saw his shadow and apparently we are going to have six more weeks of winter. Now I know there will be lots of people grumbling at this thought. Personally I love it as I live in Canada and it keeps things interesting! Besides … I own a snow blower, so more snow isn’t an issue in my mind. That said … I believe weather forecasting by a rodent amounts to tourism dollars and folklore. But Willie isn’t what I am writing about.

The Groundhog Day I’m writing about is the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a comedy where Bill plays a reporter who is sent to cover a Groundhog Day event. He’s not very happy about the assignment and takes his bitterness out on just about everyone around him. When he wakes up the next morning he finds he’s forced to repeat Groundhog Day. This loop continues until me makes significant and real changes in his own attitudes.

This makes me think about organizations looking to transform their approach to work. Asking teams to start improving how they work is a great idea! This should be an integral part of how all organizational cultures. If you’re going to do this however, make sure you don’t handcuff your teams. There are many examples of how you can handcuff your teams and here’s a few to seed the list:

  • Asking teams to move towards Agile approaches and requiring them to continue using off-shore teams/processes integral to their work. In particular when the off-shore teams continues to operate by a different set of rules  (eg. off-shoring QA)
  • Asking teams to improve their work but not changing the legacy governance processes they are forced to work with (eg. PMO, architecture, etc)
  • Asking people to only transform a portion of their work while continuing old practices which contradict each other
  • Asking them to work collaboratively as a team and not providing them a consistent team space they ‘own’
  • Asking them to collaborate effectively then worry about post-its and painter’s tape pulling paint off the walls. (Maybe you need a new painter who can prep the walls properly)
  • Asking them to improve AND continue to meet tight deadlines under heavy work loads.

It’s not hard to find examples like these. I see and hear of them all the time. If you’re going to ask your teams to go through a transformation then make sure you don’t put them in an impossible position. I’m not suggesting management needs to be able to see all of these things for themselves. Provide an easy way for teams to make these things visible. Listen to them. NEVER punish them for raising an impediment. Most of all — Act!  Transform yourself to become a servant leader – their success depends on it.

Here’s a suggestion:

  • Put a simple kanban board right on your office door titled “team impediments” (hard to ignore it if it’s on your door)
  • At least once per day spend a couple minutes reviewing the board ensuring you didn’t miss something
  • Ask your teams to elevate impediments they don’t have control over. Have them put a post-it in your backlog containing information like their team name, date posted, brief description of impediment, etc
  • Set aside a little time each day to address the impediments. Obviously some will take longer than others but take some ownership for helping remove barriers to their success
  • Don’t take ownership for things within the team’s control. You will likely see them try initially but they will learn what they own and what to elevate

Remember … “Doing things over and over again and expecting a different result” is how Einstein defined insanity.

Building Great Teams

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