CULTIVATING WORKPLACE JOY
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
One of my teams, The Taxmanian Devils, has very recently moved over to working using Scrum. Considering the amount of learning and challenges that occurred over the last two weeks, they finished their first sprint very strongly! During the retrospective and sprint planning it was apparent that there were a few things that could have gone smoother if there was a clearer alignment on what informs their decisions and actions as a team. So I suggested that, though they have been a team for a while already, that a team charter session would be useful. To my delight the team unanimously agreed to set aside some time to make this happen and onto their agile board it went!
The charter session came about and I had failed to prepare a plan for how to run the session. However the show must go on! I had a goal in mind to align the team's expectations/practices. I decided I would take an agile approach to the session and allow the teams reactions to guide the agenda.
The team had previously gone through a similar session when we first introduced agile to the department, but enough time had passed, learning had happened and situations had changed that it could not hurt to revisit.
I tried to locate any artefacts from this previous session but was only able to find a mission statement that is currently being presented to the executive management team. I thought this would be a good starting place to see if the team agreed it was reflective of their goals.
It originally read:
"We are improving the payroll teams’ productivity and reacting to business needs, through new features and improvements".
When presented with this the team were in agreement with the overall gist of the statement. Given the discussion I had with the team I knew that it was missing some key ingredients so I pressed further and asked "Is this truly reflective of what each of you want to achieve as a team? Because this is what is currently being broadcast."
This got them thinking about what they wanted, as individuals as well as a team, others to view them. After an interesting discussion with the team a few amendments emerged:
-----Translation of my scribbles-----
"We are increasing the payroll teams’ productivity and happiness by reacting to business needs, through delivering new features and improvements".
I cannot describe how happy I was to see happiness included in that mission statement! Also the emphasis on delivering is an indicator important shift in mindset that the department as a whole is currently going through.
Next I asked the team to think of some values with the brief of: "What do you as a team truly value in how you work now, and how you would like to work in future?"
For this I left the pens by the whiteboard and took a step back from being scribe. This took a little time and a little discussion but one by one each team member contributed to the list, as demonstrated by the varying handwriting in the picture.
There was some discussion around how legitimate or synonymous some of them were, but I encouraged the team to leave them as they were for now as the next task would test if these stood up as values.
Now they had their list it was time to think about the principles that would underpin those values.
I gave them the following brief: "What behaviours and actions are you willing to undertake and encourage in others in order to uphold your values?"
During this phase I handed out some sticky notepad with some sharpies and stood back to see what they would do.
I don't have a picture of the result but it was essentially a series of rows of sticky notes which diminished as you went down the list of values. Apparently the team started to struggle as there was some discussion again around overlap.
After the team seemed to grind to asked the team to group the sticky notes into groups with a similar theme. After that I asked the team to label those groups using their values as a crib-sheet.
During the exercise it became apparent that some needed more than one label. It also highlighter that open discussions and fun had not been mentioned. Open discussions was decided to be more of a result of the principles/values and was discounted. Fun however was very important to the team. I asked the team to describe what they meant as fun.
It essentially meant things like they wanted to feel like they enjoyed coming to work to work with each other. That they could have a honest laugh amongst themselves. That they felt they were part of making each other's day.
To me this was music to my ears. Workplace joy. We all spend enough time at works with our colleagues. It would be a shame to spend that time not enjoying it!
After the discussion as to what principle would be drawn up ran into a wall (the team was rightly averse to mandating fun) the quietest team member offered up the following gem:
Paraphrasing: "If we follow all the principles to make the values a reality, working with each other will be fun."
The team loved that suggestion and immediately adopted that stance, they want to make their team name synonymous with fun in their eyes.
There was a suggestion is see if the first letters of our names could make up a word that meant fun - which it did not. However the idea evolved into making a slogan
Get All Stories Done Now!
It garnered a round of laughter for the team. This kind of thing was what they meant, and I am so glad I was a part of that moment.
Back to the values and principles. The team were struggling to condense the various sticky notes so they fit neatly under one label. After a while I made the suggestion that they "do not need to do this right now and you can refine it later to address the overlaps."
As I said that I was looking at how the groups were placed on the board. That with the mention of overlap made me think of a Venn diagram. I shared the thought with the team and they really liked the idea of the visualisation, especially when I mentioned that fun would encompass all the values. I offered to make the diagram for the team, the team thanked me for the offer and for facilitating the session and with that we called brought it to a close with 1 min to spare on the clock.
It has been a while since I made a Venn diagram and figuring out how to display the text on the stickies in a useful way still alludes me but here is my first attempt! >>
It is interesting to see the relationships between the values as defined by the principles the team chose. I cannot wait to see how the team react. Perhaps they will want to align in a way that each value supports each other. Perhaps they will see this as a tool to identify possible weaknesses in their principles! It is all really exciting to me.
For me this session was incredible. I am so glad that a team has made fun a core tenant of their operation in a way which feels so natural to the team. The participation was excellent and the energy was positive. Most of that is down to the team's attitude and dynamic for which I am grateful and take zero credit!
I do not know if the team realise how under prepared I was (well the cat is out of the bag now) but it did mean that the session was entirely guided by the needs of the team and lead to an entirely new (to me at least) method of running the session and displaying the results. I am buzzing just remembering it.
This is the beginning of my exploration of workplace joy in a practical sense beyond my own micro level. Results so far are promising.
I like ending on a quote so I will go with one from Maxim Gorky:
When work is a pleasure, life is a joy!
Be seeing you!