When I started as a senior marketing manager in Team Panda (yes, my team is called Panda!!!), I was so lucky to kick off my job with a “Team Designer Workshop” with the goal to set the groundwork for the future of a new successful and high-spirited Panda squad.
Not too long before I entered the marketing department in March, Team Panda consisted of only a few people. Since the company was successfully developing in the right direction, the department quickly grew from 5 to 11 people in just 4 months.
New team members always bring several benefits to a team’s productivity. However, when teams scale quickly, processes are often outdated and need to be redesigned and in a second step, introduced to the new team members aka “pandas”. For this reason, my team decided to kick off our next “phase” with a workshop to design solutions for the challenge: ”How to become a strong, self-organized team?”
Post-its & Professional support
From my previous experience as a workshop designer & facilitator, I know how important it is to have such workshops run by professionals. This is why we got help from Jens Otto Lange, a partner of #PoDojo, a Berlin-based agile network of coaches that have worked with many smaller and bigger companies to help them work more agile & innovative. In two days we used about 3 gazillion post-its and laid the groundwork for the future of Team Panda.
I would like to share three of the many methodologies that helped us grow together as a team, get to know each other, and set up reliable processes within the panda universe.
1. Speedboat: Analyse the problem in a playful way
In order to find out what holds us back as a team we used the Speedboat technique, which is a fun and visual exercise to determine the anchors which slow down the speedboat. I experienced that it is especially useful to kick off a workshop with a playful exercise, where participants can express their doubts and criticism. However, take care of how you frame the game — it is not about starting a complaint session, but rather to collect information on potential improvements and set ambitions.
How it works:
- On a flipchart draw a picture of a speed boat on the water.
- Write a specific question next to the boat, for example: ‘What holds us back as a team?’ / ‘What are features you don’t like about our product?
- The team takes a few minutes to individually write down their ‘pain points’ on post-its
- Once the participants are finished, the notes are stuck as anchors to the board/ flipchart. The deeper the anchor the more severe the complaint or criticism is.
- When participants finished posting their anchors, they are reviewed & discussed by the group in order to understand what changes should be considered and tackled within the team.
- For more detailed info about the Speed boat exercise check out Gamestorming and Innovation Games.
2. Market of skills: get to know each other’s skills and use them!
Since more than half of the team members were pretty new, we didn’t really know each other — neither personally nor professionally — so we basically started from scratch. The market of skills was one of my favorite exercises from the workshop. It helped us to grow closer as well as it was a lot of fun! This game is inspired by the blog post of Anders Laestadius from the Swedish consultancy Crisp, and further designed to match with all kind of team setups.
How it works:
- Imagine your team is on a market (like a nice street food market) and every person has their own market stand. But instead of food they sell their strengths & abilities.
- Each team member gets a sheet of paper where he/she can prepare his/her counter within 15 minutes.
- On top of the sheet (aka counter) they should write/draw/stick their ‘main skills’: skills they bring to the team to succeed with the mission. Below the counter, they should present their ‘hidden skills’: capabilities that might be out of focus, yet interesting to know. The third section are ‘skills they would like to buy’ — so strengths they would like to enhance and build up.
- As soon as everybody finishes the design of their creative market stand, each person gets 2 minutes of attention from everyone to ‘sell’ their skills and present what skills he/she would like to acquire.
- After each skill presentation, the team members can ask questions and can ‘buy’ skills from other team members by putting a post-it on it that says ‘I buy it’.
- After the exercise, team members should get together and teach their skills to people that ‘bought’ them.
Encourage your colleagues by adding skills that they haven’t mentioned themselves — e.g. ‘I think you have really good research skills, it’s definitely a strength I want to add to your counter’. Like that, I learn a lot about the others, but also how others see me and my skills in the environment of the team.
3. Delegation poker: define who does what and how to collaborate!
This exercise helps to understand every team member’s collaboration attitude and their opinion on certain tasks and processes.
How it works:
- First, we collectively defined what key activities we have in our Team Panda as for example events, content marketing, employer branding, brand guidance etc. We defined an ‘owner’ (accountable person) for each key activity and listed on sticky notes the major tasks that come along with it.
- Every team member received a set of delegation poker cards, which show 7 different ways of delegation/ working together, e.g. Is the activity something I can decide on my own? Am I told what to do? Do we decide together?
- As a next step, we went through the single key activities and asked questions like ‘what is the delegation process in branding (key activity) between the head of brand and the involved team members?’
- Every team member gets some time to think about which collaboration style they would pick and everybody reveals their chosen delegation poker card to the group at the same time. This can be a real exciting moment and shows how (un)aligned the team thinks & acts ;)
- The card owner with the lowest and highest number elaborates why they picked the card, which should nurture a team-wide discussion to align and decide together which collaboration style they want to adopt in this context.
Focus on a maximum of 7 key activities. If you are not aware of them summarize all activities you do on sticky notes. Then, cluster the notes and assign headlines to some of them before you start the delegation poker exercise.
To check results and opinions , do a second round of delegation poker after discussing the lowest and highest numbers.
To learn more or to download your set of cards, check the article of Jurgen Appelo, the creator of the delegation poker tool.
The major learning for the team and myself was that having workshops that focus primarily on the team’s collaboration & well-being instead of content only, are key to the health of a team and should be done at least once a year or during important times of change. It helped us to define a frame that supports our self-organization by providing helpful guidelines. Another great outcome was clarifying our purpose, aligning all team members with each other and the organization as well as framing the context and constraints we are operating in. It strengthened our common understanding and was a great starting point for an exciting future.
More about #PoDojo:
The #PoDojo stands for an innovation learning culture that is creative, engaging and practical and brings Agile, Lean and Design Frameworks to the most advanced technology companies in Berlin and across Europe. Since early 1990’s #PoDojo built up a network of experts in agile coaching, product innovation and strategy, product design and development, product leadership and agile transformation.