Team Dynamics, Don’t be afraid of Change

In the Agile world, adaptation and constant change may be something your use to, but experiencing those changes in the team itself may not. Most people fear change, and not in the sense that change is negative, but it is unknown, therefore comfort zones that have been established will no longer be applicable.

One of the biggest types of changes in a Development world is Team change. As the organization discovers its strengths and weakness it than has to begin adapting the structure to best support the overall mission(deliverable) of the org.

So this affects us, mostly with team level changes, whether that be gaining new members(new to org or transfer), loosing members(experienced team members), or changing leadership(reporting structure).

Now there is most likely many other scenarios that can affect teams besides personnel changes. This also may include environment(team rooms, employees going remote), project(moved to another project, project canceled), etc.

As a Scrum Master in an agile world it is your main responsibility to maintain team communication, quality and velocity. This breaks down to being able to make sure the team communicates with each other in order to meet the second goals of maintaining a quality product and delivering that quality at the highest quantity possible. 

For Example: Team A joins Team B, and looses Employee X to Team C.

The example above is a standard team combination with maybe an overlapping resource being moved to another team, possibly two scrum masters, architects, product analysts, two specialty testers, etc. Team A and Team B most likely have reached a comfort zone if they have been existing teams, and already know there team mates work habits, and are able to adapt to them to continue productive forward progress. However now that Team A and Team B have combined, they have now returned to the “New Kid in School” mentality as they are entering an environment in which some people know each other very well and some may not know each other at all.

In Agile Development it would be accepted that the new team, will be able to spend a sprint or two in learning the team dynamic, adapting to change and transferring knowledge. This is where the Scrum Master’s ability as a team facilitator can be the most useful.

Here is a few things that a Scrum Master can try to do to facilitate a smooth transition and make a positive change to the team.

    • During meetings(reviews, stand up’s, planning’s, etc) ask everyone on the team, person by person there past team experiences and the things they liked about there old team and how they would like to see that applied to the new team dynamic.
    • Like above, ask everyone one thing they have seen that they would like to see different and what they suggest to improve this on the new team.
    • Humor, even thou humor may be considered inappropriate in all ventures its important that you make the atmosphere a comfortable one, whether its being a bit silly or humorous, laughter is the best medicine for a tense new environment.  Remember to keep it non offensive, as jokes which can alienate people are unacceptable.
    • Make sure your workspace is conductive for team work(when possible). Sitting in cubicles doesn’t facilitate a team mentality and makes it hard for people to come up to you without the feeling that they are disturbing or even possibly annoying you by interruption. Especially as a Scrum Master you want to make yourself as accessible as possible so your co-workers can come to you with any questions, concerns or anything at all.
    • Have a team outing. Some people just can’t open up at work, and doing something outside of the office is a great way to have fun, and enjoy things together as a team. Pick a few ideas or suggestions and have the team vote on a few of them and pick the top choice.
    • Take the team to lunch and try to get everyone to sit next to someone they don’t know, sometimes just having someone to the left of you is all you need to start up a conversation and get to know some-one.
    • As a Scrum Master, make sure you spend some 1 on 1 time with all members of the team to see how they are adapting to the new team dynamic , and by having a 1 on 1 they will feel more comfortable letting you know something that has been on there mind, whether it be concern of a suggestion for improvement.

These are just a few idea’s that I have tried and there is definitely more ways out there to make change a positive experience for everyone. Remember most importantly that no matter what everyone is equal and by treating team mates with respect and kindness will be more than enough to start off on the right foot.

Christopher Taylor

Software Engineer in Test & Agile Coach Certified Scrum Master

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2 Responses

  1. David says:

    Hi Chris,

    Your suggestions for facilitating the team changes make a lot of sense. I think one of the most important aspects for the teams to accept the changes is, as you mentioned, the transferring of knowledge. This removes the ‘single point of failure’ scenarios that many organisations encounter.

    This also translates for the team members as having the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills themselves, which means they don’t stay stagnant. Most people will relish an opportunity for up skilling.

    Regards,
    David

  1. January 4, 2011

    […] Team Dynamics, Don’t be afraid of Change October 2008 1 comment 4 […]

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