Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teamwork is an Individual Skill

Teamwork Is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing ResponsibilityAt QCON 2008, Christopher Avery talked about teamwork. He started out by stating that we all live in a world of shared responsibility. A team is a result. It emerges from an opportunity for a shared responsibility. He explained that the biggest problems are within departments and other departments, within team functions and other functions. This gives the attitude of you are my problem and I am your problem. Agile is moving to a different culture of

1. Collaboration, partnering, trust

2. Openness, transparency, visibility

3. Adaptive, iterative, evolving

4. Awareness, learning, facing reality

5. Humaneness & performance

Chris then demonstrated playing 4 by 4 tic tac toe with the goal of maximizing your score while taking turns. The game showed that the only way to maximize your score is to maximize the other’s score. It does not have to be win lose. It can be win/win

Next, Chris covered the 3 phases of power from the power of economics and organizing

1. Power over: authority power

2. Power to/by: exchange power – power of the vote, power of the budget, power to barter

3. Power with: Integrative power – ability to use only ideas and actions to attract other people to you to accomplish something far greater than you could do by yourself.

We want more of power over and power to rather than power with even though they are scarce and limited, while power with is available in virtually unlimited abundance.

Chris mentioned that we have far more power and ability to get things done, produce value, and make changes than we give ourselves credit for.

Typically, organizations moving to agile start with the processes, tools and mechanics of agility. But when they try to scale, organizational culture pushes back. Chris believes agility is in the dynamics (way we think, interpersonal relationship), culture and mindset and if the mindset is not there, then mechanics will have difficult time taking hold.

Chris recommends leading with dynamics by teaching shared responsibility, teamwork and individual skills, and pull the mechanics as they are needed by the people learning these new ways of working together.

Next Chris covers accountability and responsibility. He stresses that they are not the same. Accountability is a management tool. I can hold you to account for a process, operation or result. This is the reason we have levels and job description in organization. The CEO is held accountable for all. He chunks them out into pieces and delegates out to lieutenants and so on. It is a way of holding people to account for failures. It is up to you to hold someone to account. We do not do it very well.

Responsibility is a feeling of ownership. It is subjective, transient and different for each one of us. It is considered the 1st key to success.

Next Chris goes over research on how you respond to a problem:

1. Lay blame: assumption is that there is nothing you can do so you get stuck on it.

2. Justify: Blame a series of events instead of an individual. We say yhat’s just the way it is. We assume the cause is the set of circumstances. The smarter you are, the better stories you make up and you believe them. If we accept the answer, we get stuck.

3. Shame: Beating yourself up for making a mistake. Take away external cause. Something is wrong with you. I will never learn. You will not get off of shame and do anything about it.

4. Obligation. Have to but don’t want to. We design our relationships around obligation. You have to do it because I said so.

Chris redefines responsibility as owning your power and ability to create, choose, and attract. You have power and ability to create results, attract situations and people to you and to make choices. You will be more powerful if you admit that you can get yourself out of this situation.

Then Chris covers the keys of responsibility:

1. Intention: intending to live more of your life in a position of responsibility

2. Awareness: study to figure out how you are responding to a problem and catching yourself. Then you can move off the current position.

3. Confront: face yourself and ask yourself what is true about this situation and what can I learn.

The results of developing responsibility practice are an increase in awareness, learning, choice, freedom, authenticity, power and a decrease in anxiety. They unlock essential self discipline, fundamental leadership mindset, radical innovation and execution, rapid truth telling.

It works because it is a natural human process that is the same in every one of us. It redefines responsibility properly. It is about an adaptive mind set and culture. It honors teamwork and interactions.

Finally, Chris goes over steps for a team orientation process:

Pre Step 1: Assume 100% responsibility for productivity of your team. Assume that there is something you can do if the team is not working the way you want it to.

Step 1: Shared task purpose and shared objectives. Have a dialogue and explain what must we do that is bigger than any of us, requires all of us, and none of us can claim victory until we are done. Make sure that we all have the sense that we are in it together.

Step 2: Individual motivation and intrinsic motivation. Teamwork is when we have win-win. If you create things that create losing then you have created the freeloader effect. It is the principle of least invested coworker which says any team will perform to the level of the person who cares the least about what the team is doing. Keep the team motivate. Discover what’s in it for each member and see what motivates them. It is not just about carrot and sticks. You need to find out what already motivates them.

Step 3: Make and keep agreements. The fabric of the team is not there until you create it by the agreements you make about meetings, communication, confidentiality, and conflict management. You have to take responsibility for the agreements you make.

Step 4: Find a clear and elevating goal

Step 5: Inventory strengths and honor differences

Keep measuring to see if the team has direction and energy and if not, then go back and review each of the steps.

This presentation is available on InfoQ at  http://www.infoq.com/presentations/teamwork-an-individual-skill