I had the opportunity to work with Mike Vizdos for a one-day Scrum coaching session. A team in Chandler, Arizona was interested in finding ways to improve, to get outside eyes to help them see what they might be missing. We and the team had a great day. I re-learned something important about working on continuous improvement.
The Team State
This team had grown to more than double their original count over the past year or so. They could see that some things could be improved, some “pain points” needed relief. Some areas we discussed:
- New ways of handling incoming Product Backlog requests, both new development and maintance stories.
- The team structure was also in question. Do they split? If so, how? And why?
- The newer members were integrating well but perhaps more could be done to help them integrate.
- A few team members and many end customers were time zones away. What does that mean for their work and getting to done?
These are more were great questions to be asking themselves. We endeavored to help them with new vision and directions to explore.
Forgetting What’s Good
As we proceeded with the day, reviewing the definition of Scrum and working through their questions, we were focused on what improvements were needed. Pain points were identified, discussed and solution paths planned. This was all going well, with honest conversation all around. And then I was taught by the group’s awesome manager during a late moring break.
He walked beside me down the hall and pointed out that we seemed to be talking a lot about “becoming a high performing team,” as if this team was not already performing very well. The team was already known in the company as very high performing. They delivered on time and with high quality. They were already a great team.
I nearly stopped walking. He was so right! I had already seen that these people were a team, in the best sense of the term. They interacted with respect and intent for the good of the whole. They knew what they were talking about and wanted more from themselves. We had spent so much focus examining the places of difficulty that the things that were right were nearly forgotten!
Remember the FoundationI have yet to encounter a team that cannot improve in some area. There is a saying that “Perfection is the goal. Excellence will be tollerated.” This saying recognizes that perfection is unlikely, probably impossible. What is nearly perfect today will not be that way very long. Teams must find ways to continuously improve, if for no other reason than to adapt to the changing world outside of the team.
And focusing on the improvement spots, the pain points, can blind us to the things we are already doing well. As we improve, we build on the foundation of what is already good. So good teams can become great and great teams can always get better because of the excellence they already have!
The next time I’m looking at pain points, I’ll remember to recognize the good work already in place, making the coming improvements possible.