Miguel Moro: Team success, or Scrum Master motivation? Which one is a better success indicator?

Started in a very enthusiastic way one of his first assignments as a Scrum Master. The enthusiasm was a positive, but, as it turned out, it was also a negative. In this episode, we explore what can happen when we focus on our enthusiasm and motivation, instead of the team’s success as the core of our work!

About Miguel Moro

As an Agile practitioner, Miguel’s passion is to delight customers using Agile practices and Lean methodologies in development teams, to explore the best alternatives to deliver in an iterative and incremental way, with a continuous value of flow, as fast as possible, and with innovative solutions. He does that by focusing on high performance teams and happiness at work.

You can link with Miguel Moro on LinkedIn and connect with Miguel Moro on Twitter.

The untold, science based, truth about motivating and engaging Scrum teams

This is a guest blog post by Christian Heidemeyer, the developer of Echometer, a tool for Scrum Masters to run retrospectives, and collect data that helps reflect and develop  team’s performance

Why employee mindset is overrated

After interviewing hundreds of Scrum Masters, one of the most common challenges we at Echometer get is: “People don’t have the right, agile mindset.” 

As a psychologist, I think these Scrum Masters do not understand one of the key ideas of agile methods and Scrum. These people are overrating the importance of employee mindset over other – critical – aspects, which leads them down the wrong path. I will try to explain it with a simple story.

The story of Felix

Imagine Felix, an amazing software engineer who mostly works on his own. He created some creative free products thousands of people use. People celebrate him on Twitter.

But Felix wants a change. More and more of his IT friends, especially Sarah, talked about the magic of working in a great team. Where people inspire each other, or as they say: where ideas have sex.

Felix applies to a few jobs and ends up with two offers that seem to fit his needs. The two potential teams he could join are totally different.

The Performers

Team one, let us call them, “Performers”, seem to be a team of overperformers. Every single one of the team members is a legend in their area of expertise. Felix was able to talk to two of the team members. They seemed to be highly motivated and skilled. They are young and bold. But at the same time, Felix feels like something is wrong in that team after talking to the team members. They did not seem to be totally honest with him.

And then there is the way they organize: There is no clear structure. Everybody is supposed to have maximum freedom – because after all, they are all skilled professionals who know what to do. 

On the one hand, Felix likes this high-profile companionship. On the other hand, he is not sure how the team benefits from each other’s knowledge with so little communication and structure.

The Teamy-Team

In team two, we will call “Teamy”, Felix did not know a single one of the developers. None of them seemed to be specifically good at their job. Some of the developers in the team seemed to be relatively old and clumsy on first impression.

But at the same time, they are the team everybody talked about on Social Media. The challenge they worked on was the challenge everybody worked on – but they seemed to be the team with the solution: A simple, smart, and creative game-changer.

When he talked to one of the older team members, Robin, he saw the glowing enthusiasm in his eyes. That is nothing he saw in the “Performers” Team. So which team should Felix go for?

The system and the mindset

Let me tell you something about the two teams Felix does not know: Team 1 is not performing. Individually they are good and they are motivated, but they don’t work as a team. 

Colleagues of the “Performers” team know of their bad performance. And they also think they know the reason: “They just don’t have the right mindset”. 

Now imagine Felix would join the Performers team. I am pretty sure, Felix – a motivated and bright software engineer – would not have performed well over the long run. His colleagues would also say “he also does not have the right mindset, just like the others”. They would think there is something wrong with Felix as a person.

We are at the core of the problem here. These colleagues blame it on the mindset. But as you may have guessed, it is not the mindset.

Jeff Sutherland says it, too

The majority of people have what people think of as the “right” mindset. They are motivated and want to perform. But it is the situation, surroundings, or system they are in – the culture and structure of their team, company, or maybe private family – that affects their performance. 

This is the case for the “Performers” team. Individually they have good ideas and skills. But they are lacking the right structure and communication system. Therefore, these ideas go in different directions, tasks are not aligned, making progress really hard. 

Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, puts it this way here: “We are all creatures of the system we find ourselves embedded in. Instead of seeking someone to blame, try to examine the system that produced the failure and fix the system.”

We tend to overrate the importance of personal character when explaining the behavior of others. Interestingly, we do not do so when explaining our own behavior, or did you ever hear someone say “I don’t have the right mindset”? No, that person could give a good – situational – reason why they are not performing.

In psychology, this is called “fundamental attribution error”. It is a natural, widely spread bias in western cultures that you can obverse everywhere in daily life.

Working on the root cause

Given the fundamental attribution error, people often think they can solve their problems if they could “fix” one or two persons in their team. Instead, they should work on their team and their surrounding as a whole.

Therefore, like many others, I believe the retrospective is the most important event in Scrum. There you can make your team aware of the root causes of the problems they face, which often lie in the situation, not the persons. This is the reason why I, as a psychologist and agile evangelist, decided to develop a tool for agile retrospectives in teams, Echometer – and not, e.g., a digital coach for the individual. 

If you really want to work on the psychological input triggers of team performance, I recommend having a look at the “team flow” model of dutch scientist Dr. Jef van den Hout. He developed a model that is a roadmap to bring the individual feeling of flow to a whole team.

You can find more about the model and get additional 12 practical workshops to bring it into your team – for example in your agile retro – in my free eBook. You can download it here.

Ah, by the way. Felix chose the right team, “Teamy”. He is really happy with his choice. Learning more than ever – and adding more value than ever!

About Christian Heidemeyer

Christian is a psychologist by training and a retrospective tool developer for Scrum Masters and Scrum Teams. His tool Echometer takes advantage of the latest science-based findings of team motivation and performance to help Scrum Masters run impactful retrospectives.

You can link with Christian Heidemeyer on LinkedIn.

BONUS: The top 3 challenges to better retrospectives with David Horowitz

In this episode, we interview David Horowitz who’s the CEO of Retrium, a company that builds tools to help you facilitate remote retrospectives. The links to Retrium’s Retrospectives Academy below are affiliate links, if you prefer to follow a link that takes you to Retrium’s site, but does not give anything back to the podcast, you can. Just follow this link: Retrium.com. On the other hand, if you want to help us grow this podcast, you can follow the links below or this link to Retrium’s Retrospective’s Academy.

As David started his Scrum Master journey, he was faced with a big challenge. He struggled with remote retrospectives. No wonder, he ended up creating and being the CEO for a remote retrospectives company. He experienced the pain first-hand! 

As he got started experimenting, he found the Lean Coffee format to be effective (see our Lean Coffee episodes). However, he found that even when the format worked well, there was something else missing. 

The collaboration that can be had when the team is in the same room simply isn’t the same when we are all remote, and sometimes even without video! 

Solving remote retrospectives, one tool at a time

Continue reading BONUS: The top 3 challenges to better retrospectives with David Horowitz

How focusing on a single metric improved team performance – Guest post by Marcus Hammarberg

This is a guest post by Marcus Hammarberg, author of Salvation: The Bungsu Story, How Lean and Kanban saved a small hospital in Indonesia. Twice. And can help you reshape work in your company. (available on Amazon)

This is the third post on a series by Marcus Hammarberg about how metrics can help engage, motivate and ultimately push a team towards success! (See other blog posts in this series here)

When we first started to work with the Bungsu hospital they were in a devasting situation.

Fast forward 1,5 years and you would see a hospital that was making money every day.

In the end, we turned the hospital from a situation where only the director and her closest staff cared, to a situation where 100 people in the hospital were actively engaged in everyday improvements.

How is this possible? What kind of magic was applied?

How focusing on a single metric improved team performance

Now that we had a metric that mattered to everyone and this truly was the “talk of the hospital”, we experienced a wave of change.

Not surprisingly the first groups to engage was the people in charge of bringing more people to the hospital; the marketing team.

It turned out that making the “number of patients served”-metric visible throughout the hospital, was what was needed to get them activated. But when we did, the lid of their passion and creativity jar was blown off! We started to see real ownership in their behavior. As if The Bungsu was their very own hospital.

Before I knew it, I found myself in a workshop where the two ladies of the marketing department blurted out 25 ideas on how to get more patients. And 3 or 4 of them were really low hanging fruit that we could do the very next day. For example:

  • Go to the nearby clinics and advertise our availability for surgery and treatments that the clinics could not handle
  • Offer free transport from the big hospitals to our hospital for treatments that the big hospitals had a waiting list for
  • Suggest that our freelancing doctors would do all their surgery in our hospital

These were very simple changes that had been dragging on in decision-making boards. Now the decisions were quick to make – because the need and impact were clear to see.

Just a few days after we started to track “number of patients served per day” these actions brought the metric up to a whopping 133 patients served per day! Twice the normal number of patients and a level that has not been seen in a long time.

This taught me, in a very impactful way, how a single metric can transform the performance of a team. In this case, the marketing team.

Do you need the one metric that matters to engage your team? This booklet is for you!

In the Bungsu’s Pirate Code for Visualization downloadable booklet I will go into details on how we made this “one metric that matters” engaging, kept it relevant and ultimately saved the hospital by keeping our focus there – using what we referred to as the Bungsu Pirate Code. Click here to download your guide to using the “one metric that matters” in your own team.

This is a very actionable tool that you can you use today in your organisation to make your visualizations matter to everyone all the time.

The Bungsu Story is a fascinating account of a real-life crisis, and how Agile, Lean and Kanban saved the Hospital from bankruptcy! Twice! Get ready for the journey, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

About Marcus Hammarberg

Marcus is the author of Salvation: The Bungsu Story (available on Amazon), an inspiring and actionable story about how simple tools can help transform the productivity and impact of an organization. The real-life stories in The Bungsu can help you transform the productivity of your team. Marcus is also an renowned author and consultant in the Kanban community, he authored the book Kanban in Action with Joakim Sundén.
You can link with Marcus Hammarberg on LinkedIn, and connect with Marcus Hammarberg on twitter.

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This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
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This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
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Motivate your team with the right metrics, and the right way to visualize and track them. Marcus presents a detailed How-To document based on his experience at The Bungsu Hospital
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Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works
A moving story of how work at the Bungsu Hospital was transformed by a simple tool that you can use to help your team.
Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works