Liberate the Five Dysfunctions of your Team — Part 3

Use Liberating Structures for workshops to overcome the 5 dysfunctions of Scrum Teams.

This is the third part of a three-part series. You should read the first article and the second one to enjoy it.

Third and last part of this journey (Photo by Danilo Batista on Unsplash)

In the first article of this series, we’re talking about:

  • The description of the five dysfunctions of a team
  • The parallelism between a healthy team and the values proposed by Scrum
  • The learning methods to coach the team

In the second article of this series, we’re talking about:

  • Creating a common understanding about the five dysfunctions of a team
  • Create and facilitate a workshop for overcoming the absence of trust
  • Create and facilitate a workshop for overcoming the fear of conflicts

The topic of this article is how to facilitate the workshops for overcoming the last three dysfunctions: Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. And the fun we had doing this activity, is another topic too!

Lack of Commitment

If the team members avoid open discussion of controversial topics and don’t clearly understand why this or that decision has been taken, they fail to commit to the adopted course of action or team goals.

Teams that lack commitment:

  • Lack confidence and are in fear of failure
  • Discuss the same topics or decisions over and over again
  • Make ambiguity and afterthought
  • Fail to catch opportunity spending too much time on making a decision
Photo by Mark Duffel @unsplash

My challenge was to find the best suited Liberating Structures for achieving this goal. For stimulating this flow of discussion, the LS “TRIZ”, came to my mind.

I like a lot the destroying phase of this structure and the successive analysis. This structure makes possible to safely challenge assumptions and beliefs, plus encourages heretical thinking. (Please refer to “liberatingstructures.com” for a deeper description of all Structures used in this article)

At first, we had clarification regarding commitment during meetings. Thereafter we refreshed our team principles.

Commitment clarification

1. “What have we agreed?”: summarize all key decisions made during the meeting and the rationale for taking them

2. If there is no consensus, the facilitator then provokes further discussion to eliminate any discrepancies and clarify commitments and agreements.

3. Record all commitments on the board and has all team members record them as well

Team principles:

  • The structure and schedule for meetings.
  • Acceptable behavior during meetings (for example, laptop use).
  • The preferred methods for communication (for example, e-mail, voice mail, and so on) and the norms around how to use them.
  • The timeliness of responding to one another using those methods.
  • The use of common resources, human and otherwise.
  • The level of freedom in which team members can engage one another’s staff.
  • The extent to which being on time is a priority.

Stop Counterproductive Activities

Newer less the two steps before refreshed well-known concepts, we tried to understand why the team could have a lack of commitment.

The proposed LS string

In this three-step process, ask:

1. “Make a list of all you can do to make sure that you achieve the worst result imaginable concerning having a clear strategy, directions, and priorities in our projects.”

2. “Go down this list item by item and ask yourselves, ‘Is there anything that we are currently doing that in any way, shape, or form resembles this item?’ Be brutally honest to make a second list of all your counterproductive activities/programs/procedures.”

3. “Go through the items on your second list and decide what first steps will help you stop what you know creates undesirable results?”

Depending on the outcome of TRIZ, everybody tries to answer the questions “What is my 15 percent solution? Where do I have discretion and freedom to act? What can I do in the near future?”

Outcomes and observations

I liked many things doing this workshop:

  • Daily used rules and beliefs were challenged and seen from another point of view
  • Using TRIZ a lot of funny and exaggerated reflections stood out. Teams often laugh and otherwise taboo issues get a chance to be aired and confronted.
  • The possibility of making a future retrospective about the self-assigned action points emerged with “15% Solution”.

Avoidance of Accountability

When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Healthy teams don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability, they go directly to their peers.

Holding each other accountable is difficult, but the cost of not doing so is incredibly high. Avoidance of accountability leads to:

  • The unintentional lowering of standards
  • Reduced performance, missed deadlines, and wasted time/effort
  • Ironically, strained relationships and discomfort amongst team members

Essentially, holding each other accountable is called “giving feedback.”

Adam Jang @unsplash.com

But how can be done without hurting the other person?

I proposed the LS “Wicked Questions”. It brings to light paradoxical-yet-complementary forces that are constantly influencing behaviors and that are particularly important during change efforts.

In our case, we tried to answer this question: “How is it that we challenge our teammates, and we feel comfortable doing this, simultaneously?”

Following this sequence of step:

  • Individually: 3 min
  • Small groups (4 people): 8 min
  • Whole group: 10 min

Observation

Remarkable were the outcomes of the previous workshops about trust and fear of conflicts. Thanks to them, the team was able to speak freely and have an open-minded discussion.

Inattention to Results

In this case, the preparation of the workshop was quite easy. With the Scrum framework, the team commits to:

  • Product Goal
  • Sprint Goal
  • Definition of Done

By following them, we can inspect the Results.

Illustration by Thea Shukken

So, we try to answer the questions “What is my “15 percent solution” for improving my commitment versus these 3 results? Where do I have discretion and freedom to act? What can I do in the near future?”

Outcomes

For me was very interesting to see the increasing awareness regarding the importance of these three Scrum artifacts. By discussing them, the importance and guidance for the whole team increases.

Conclusion

This journey to the five dysfunctions of a team comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed it.

Please let some comments and feedback if you decide to implement a similar path for your team, it is always interesting to see other approaches :-)

Special thanks

Special thanks to all my team members that took part in these workshops. It was very funny and engaging to work with them and to have deep and open-minded discussions.

Let us continue to learn and grow together!!!

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Liberate the Five Dysfunctions of your Team — Part 3 was originally published in Serious Scrum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.