Getting to work together
I did quite a few team workshops at the end of 2010. Sessions were short (2-4 hours per team), so I had time only for the most important messages.
I have found one exercise very useful when working with a team for the first time and when time is very limited
The teams I met were work-groups & organizational units, not teams. They had been working together for some time, but had done nothing related to becoming a team (no commonly agreed rules or goals, no team development workshops). When I met with the teams, the organization was going through a transformation to Agile. Part of the transformation was to (i) merge SW and testing people to same (=new) teams and (ii) get started with concept of self-organization.
When I met with the teams, I wanted to create positive energy and make people feel how it is to work in a real team.
After starting routines (check-in, agreeing ground rules for the session) I give team a task: Invent your team a name, logo and slogan. Teams often have a “name”, but it often just an organizational identifier (e.g. CSS/BSSD/Team1, or similar). What they had to do in the exercise, they had to agree a name to their team as well as draw a logo picture and create one-sentence slogan. I give then 15-20 minutes and at the end they need to write present their results on a flip-chart.
What happens almost every time is this: Teams get really excited about the task. Opinions fly around, people add new things on each others ideas, there is laughter and lot of energy.
What happens sometimes is this: While watching the teams, I feel how innovation fills the room. Suddenly the scattered ideas come together and — swoosh — team creates an unbelievable great idea. Everyone in the team stops and looks at the flip-chart, amazed. “Wow“, they say, “did we do that?!?“.
After this exercise, it is easy to continue with more serious discussions about team work. Team also gets something concrete out of the workshop: they can hang the flip-chart in their workspace and feel proud of what they did together.
In addition to increasing the energies and making everyone more relaxed, the exercise gives me opportunity to observe the team. I usually spend some 20 minutes de-briefing the activity and we discuss how people felt about the exercise and how they were presenting ideas, making decisions, listening to others etc.
There is only one thing that makes me sad when I look at the teams or talk with them about the exercise: Quite often this is the first time when team members really work together, for the same goal, appreciating others and feeling engaged about their task.
To end with a positive note, I believe everyone in the team will remember the feeling when they look at the name-logo-slogan sheet in their working space. Maybe they will carry something from the exercise to their daily work.
Thanks to Agile/Lean transformation team at Nokia Siemens Networks and especially Kati Vilkki about this. Let me know if someone else should be credited for this exercise.