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Fellow agilists.. In this weeks edition of #TopTipsTuesday - How to foster your teams microculture

Watch the video version of this blog post here;

I'm a big believer enabling teams to have and celebrate their own sense of identity. One of the most important variables that each team has that differentiates them from others is their people. This is why I have coined the phrase 'Innovate, don't replicate'

Story time

Now, when I was the release train engineer for a globally distributed release train, I had the pleasure of bringing along a senior stakeholder to one of our PI planning sessions. He was new to the programme and wanted to get a feel for how we operated.

When it came to breakout sessions, he asked me - So what now Chris? Are the squads all going to start using post-it notes?

My response - Actually.. No.

- The WhiteWalkers squad, they like post its

- The Nights Watch? They cluster together around an excel file and plan their PI digitally

- The Starks? They use a virtual whiteboarding tool

- And The Lannisters - They have access to a surface hub so they use that

Each of these squads had their own preferred way of delivering the outcome from these breakout sessions. As long as they all contributed their work onto a central location and made this transparently available to others, I was keen not to standardise their approach.

I've also worked with teams who loved to do music themed retrospectives as that was something they could all connect over. Another team preferred video games and liked their meetings and content geared around this shared passion. A further team enjoyed naming their sprints after movies and would share the latest sprint to the rest of the squads.

Each of these examples showed me and emphasised the importance of enabling micro cultures. I've fallen foul of working in the opposite way before also and seeking to standardise things and the result wasn't nearly as positive.

My Top tips for fostering micro cultures

  • Encourage teams to create their own team charter.

This will align them around their strengths, development areas, goals both individual and at a team level, values and ways of working that they can create and own together. This helps create a greater sense of ownership for how the team works.

  • Actively celebrate individualism.

This can be done through sharing war stories, learnings and lessons. Each team has it's own unique set of people who all have different needs, goals and desires. Allow them to innovate, not replicate.

  • Make time for personal interactions.

If it's all meeting meeting meeting and no time for personal interactions, odds are, you'll have teams that don't have as strong a relationship with one another, or don't feel as accountable to their colleagues. Make the first 5 minutes of each meeting unfiltered, non work focused to allow teams to connect.

  • Don't standardise methodology, solutions or approaches with your teams.

Define guardrails & outcomes and let the team best decide how to deliver these outcomes. As an example, rather than forcing a team to estimate in story points, instead, set the guardrail that each team must be aware of and strive to improve their throughput.

What tips do you have for enabling a team to have its own identity? What was the result of doing so? I'm always keen to hear from fellow practitioners.

Don't stop believin folks!

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