The Agile Coach
Your Team Collaboration Model affects your Delivery

Your Team Collaboration Model affects your Delivery

By Lakshmi Ramaseshan


How intentional are you about Collaboration?

Being disciplined about collaboration creates a respectful environment which is a pre-requisite for Psychological Safety. Being respectful with each other builds trust and overtime sows the seeds for Team Safety. Safety not only creates a sense of belonging with the team but is also a key ingredient to the Team’s performance.

Safety starts with showing Respect

Do you ever feel safe to speak your mind with anyone that does not respect you or your time?

How does respect show up in the way your team collaborates? How do you encourage respectful behavior within your team on a day to day basis?

How does your collaboration model affect your team’s ability to commit to weekly goals and continuously deliver on an initiative?

Shared understanding and alignment are the objectives of collaborative work. I’m going to expand on two instances where having the intention to create alignment can lead to effective delivery.


Increased Collaboration improves Decision Making

At Paciolan we have a big culture of conducting inceptions for every initiative so we can set teams up for success. Inceptions are a way to bring the team together to align them on the strategy, the work and the team. It is important during inceptions to be mindful of creating an environment where true collaboration can occur.

In any collaborative discussion, whether it is a stand-up, backlog refinement meeting or an inception, there is an opportunity for mis-communication. Creating a shared understanding requires “intention”.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place ~ George Bernard Shaw

? When we have intention to create alignment this is how it unfolds:

? With a shallow discussion, we may take away something different

? When we externalize our thinking with words & pictures, we detect differences

? When we combine and refine, we arrive at something better

? Afterwards, when we say the same thing we actually mean it

When we “see” the same thing and are on the same page about how we can collaborate to get a piece of work completed, we can make effective decisions that benefit the product.

Trust and Safety lay a foundation for teams to openly collaborate in this way and be open-minded and innovative about meeting our end customers needs.


The benefit of TRUE collaboration = Shared Understanding & Alignment


So how does this break down for your team on a day to day basis?

I want to introduce you to the Cynefin Framework (credit David J. Snowden) when speaking of respectful collaboration within your Kanban Team: (credit Jim Benson)

All the work we do can be categorized into 4 quadrants/domains — Simple, Complicated, Complex and Chaotic

From a Collaboration perspective the need for collaboration increases as you go from Simple to Chaotic

Being in “Chaotic” domain is not sustainable and is not recommended to be used for long periods of time


Setting Goals as a Team:

When setting your weekly goals on a Kanban Team or your Sprint Goals as a Scrum Team it is important to have a conversation about the type of work you are taking on.

? Is the work Simple, Complicated, Complex or Chaotic?

? How much collaboration do you need to complete the work?

? Who do you need to inform when you collaborate and make decisions about a part of the product you are working on?


Simple: Is the work simple & can it done with minimal or no collaboration?

This is the simplest form of work & the team member taking this on can manage their time effectively and take this task/story to completion on their own.

As a ScrumMaster or a Coach guiding the team, I would still challenge the team member to see if there is an opportunity to swarm or mob on this story to bring in a new perspective.


Complicated: Is the work complicated & does it need a SME (Subject Matter Expert) or someone to pair with to get it completed?

Did the team member voice that they would need help to complete this work during the stand-up?

Does the SME or team member you are going to pair with know about this need from you? Does the SME have an approximate idea of when you will be needing their help?


Complex: Is the work complex & does it need the collective intelligence of the team to get it completed?

?? Did the team member voice that they would need the whole team’s help to complete this work?

?? Is this something the whole team is creating time for?

?? What else do we need to hold back on if we are committing this piece of work to our team goal?


Chaotic: Is the work chaotic & does it need a group session with your team & members outside of your team to do some discovery?

?? Have you voiced how much collaboration is needed on this piece of work and let the team & the team members outside of your team know that you will be leaning on them for this work?

?? Do the partnering teams know when you will be reaching out for help? How are you keeping them posted on your progress?

?? Are you setting some boundaries/constraints around the problem to be able to break it down?

Being intentional about collaboration in this way sows the seeds for greater respect & safety within the team. The team is able to have better conversations due to a “shared understanding” that was created and this results in the team making better decisions — about what to build first & how to build it.


Take a moment to Reflect on:

? What does Team Collaboration look like on your Team?

? How can you help your team see the correlation between collaboration, respect, safety & the ability to deliver?

? What is the one thing you can do today to bring this mindset into your team to improve the way your team collaborates?

? What powerful questions can you ask in your Team events to help them see the gaps in their collaboration model?

? What can you do to improve Collaboration at the Team of Teams level in your organization