You’ve likely heard of the Tuckman stages of group development: forming - storming - norming - performing. Our goal is always to reach performing, but what do you do if your team gets stuck in the storming phase?

In this session, I will share recent experiences of helping a team get unstuck and back on track to norming, with high performing in their sights. I’ll set the stage by describing the real challenges the team faced in trying to reconcile multiple, different team cultures and approaches to accomplishing work. Next, I'll share specific techniques the team used to start moving forward, such as a visioning exercise to align on team values and a team radar to assess current state, journey line and marketplace of skills activities to celebrate individual strengths and interests, establishing a feedback habit to create space for healthy disagreement, and picking up a gratitude practice.

So if you have a feeling your team’s norms could use some refreshing or if you’re currently stuck in the storming phase, join me for this session and leave with ideas you can use right away to help your team become more aligned and get back on the road to high performing!


Outline/Structure of the Talk

This talk will be presented as an experience report and will emphasize the specific techniques and practices used. It is primarily a talk, but some audience interaction (via polls and short pair discussions) will be interspersed throughout.

1. Help! We're Stuck in the Storming Phase

  • Share the context from a recent experience with an Agile team for which I was acting as the Scrum Master
    • Several team members had left, a couple original team members remained, and about 75% of the team was new
    • Team was made up of members from two different companies who didn't have any previous shared working experiences together
    • Quickly became apparent that we didn't have the same norms and working styles and even the language we used was sometimes creating confusion
  • First step, acknowledge the phase we were in and that it's a normal part of the process. Then identify actions we could take to move forward together in a positive direction.

2. Align on Shared Team Values & Goals

  • Visioning exercise to align on shared team values
    • Team brainstorming exercise to identify our top six characteristics of a high-performing team and jointly define what they mean to us (ex. ours were Collaborative, Open Communication, Shared Knowledge/Awareness, Innovative/Creative, Trust & Support, and Positive/Open-minded)
    • Agree to a practice to use a team radar to assess our current state and to measure progress over time
  • Created a shared goal for what we wanted our team to accomplish over the next year
    • This allowed us to realize we were working towards the same outcomes and shared the same mission
  • Re-create our team working agreement
    • Existing team norms had to be updated, so that they all the current team members had the opportunity to provide input and they reflected the needs of the current team

3. Celebrate individual strengths & interests

  • We identified that we needed to learn more about each other as individuals and people (outside of just of work roles), so we could better understand where each person was coming from and support each other
  • We used a combination of the "Journey Line" and "Marketplace of Skills" activities to learn more about each others' paths and uncover existing strengths and areas that each person was hoping to grow in
    • Allowed us to find opportunities for people to develop these skills and identify pairing opportunities
  • Created "User Manuals" to share communication and feedback preferences, learning styles, and other information helpful for someone to know

4. Establish a feedback habit

  • Established a feedback habit to create space for healthy disagreement
  • Identified forums for providing feedback as a group (ex. retrospectives) and techniques for sharing one on one feedback (ex. Impact feedback)
  • As a Scrum Master, tried to model sharing both positive and constructive feedback
  • Agreed as a team when full consensus is and is not needed

5. Start a gratitude practice

  • Started this while we were still in the storming phase
  • Informally added to the end of most of our full team meetings and any team member could kick it off
  • Used appreciation cards after the completion of a large effort to explicitly thank each other
  • Helped us keep everything in perspective and always see each other as people first

6. Recap

  • We were able to see and acknowledge the progress we'd made and the impact it had on our ability to work together and succeed as a team
  • Some team members shared that they had been initially skeptical of some of the activities (ex. Journey Lines), but that they had actually been transformational to them personally and to the team as a whole
  • Continued journey as the team grew and evolved, but the practices used allowed us to establish a stronger foundation as a team

Learning Outcome

  1. Learn how to facilitate a session for the team to align on values and norms
  2. Understand how to celebrate individual strengths and differences among team members
  3. Appreciate the important for having an agreed upon feedback habit for the team

Target Audience

Anyone on an Agile team, but especially Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches

Prerequisites for Attendees

No perquisites for this session

schedule Submitted 1 year ago