Exercises to become a strong team

Tamara Stix
Feb 5, 2019 · 6 min read
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Team Designer Workshop with PoDojo

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 However, when teams scale quickly, processes are often outdated and need to be redesigned and in a second step, introduced to the new team members aka “pandas”.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

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

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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!

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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.

Little hint

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!

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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.

Little Hint
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.

Workshop Achievements

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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.

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