This is a transcript of episode 299 of the Troubleshooting Agile podcast with Jeffrey Fredrick, Douglas Squirrel.
An underperforming tech team is missing something, but what?
Three Conversations for Success
Squirrel: Welcome back to Troubleshooting Agile. Hi there, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Hi, Squirrel.
Squirrel: So here at the as we’re recording this, it’s the autumnal equinox. And I was listening to some clever person recently who was saying that around now through Christmas is a time that’s almost like a sprint for many folks, that they’re preparing for the new year, or they’re pushing for a Christmas rush. But there’s really not too much of a break that anybody gets in this period. It’s kind of hurry, hurry, hurry. And then you get to the end of the year, and you get to relax a little bit. And that struck me as something that resonates for me. Certainly, it feels like a sprint right now for me in various parts of my business and a lot of my clients’ businesses. And it also struck me that that’s when problems appear, that’s when you kind of understand that something’s not quite as it should be. And you have some ideas. Jeffrey, you were just telling me about how to evaluate teams. I thought those were really well-timed. Do you want to tell us about that and what we’re planning to do to help our listeners?
Jeffrey: Yeah. And this sounds really good fortuitous timing that you brought this idea of the sprint in. And I agree that it’s when people are looking at that, that they often become aware of problems. And what I’m going to share to, you know, today and in the coming weeks is something that was reflecting in me, wanted to give people kind of the mental model that I often use with my coaching clients. I find myself often telling them, you know, and essentially, like I’m a very simple person. I always look at good as having the same characteristics, which is sort of like we, meaning whoever is on the project, you know, we get together in a room virtually or physically. We agree what we’re going to do. Everyone contributes. And you know, the result is we all feel really engaged, and we like we can overcome whatever comes our way.
Jeffrey: And I thought would be useful though, as for my clients and I thought this is worth sharing with people here on the podcast, is to break these down into pieces. And, you know, Squirrel, you and I often talk about often what’s missing is a conversation, and I’ll have people who agree, but they’re just not sure which conversation they’re missing. So we wanted to bring in this kind of checklist of three components where you can look for sort of diagnostic. Are we missing conversations here? Do we have these elements? And that, I think if you have all three, in my experience, then you’re going to be in a good position. I’m going to say these three things, but they don’t necessarily follow linearly. There’s a lot of interplay between them, but it’s helpful to kind of look at them independently in my experience. So how does that sound? Should we jump into those three?
Squirrel: Well, I don’t know whether we should jump into them today because I think each one is going to require at least a few minutes of thought and analysis. So I think our plan was to do them over the next the coming three episodes. But maybe you could summarize them for us and listeners can start thinking about what their questions are, what their thoughts are on each of those.
Jeffrey: Yep. Okay, let’s do that. So the three things are going to be here’s kind of the things I look for.
Jeffrey: Number one, are we clear on what we’re trying to accomplish, which is to say, do we have alignment? Are we all aligned on what the goals are?
Jeffrey: Number two, do we feel like everyone is contributing to the effort? Is there engagement? Is everyone engaged?
Jeffrey: And three, do we have constructive conflict? Do we have that sort of felt permission for candor? That is the quality of psychological safety.
Jeffrey: And in my experience, if we have all three of those, then the result is that we have this feeling that we can overcome whatever obstacles are going to arise. So those are the three elements. We’re going to go ahead and cover those in three different episodes with the idea that you, our listener, can come back and listen to them as a series or pick out the ones that you want, and we’ll try to give you different resources to take from there. So we’ve covered a lot of this material before, but this is a bit of a different structure. So you can sort of say which of these three elements are we missing? Where do we need to work?
Jeffrey: I will say this, there’s going to be a similar element to all three of these, which is there’s a combination of theory and practice to be successful. And for theory, there will be some things that we’ll share. But also, like a belief that you have the theory that you know, and there’s also that you can learn more theory as needed, if you know what problem you’re trying to solve. So if you know you have a problem with, say, engagement, then you can go and learn more ways to improve engagement.
Jeffrey: But the other thing I want to emphasize is practice. All of these things require practice. They’re all going to mean that you’re going to build skills over time. None of these: alignment, engagement or constructive conflict are things you can just decide to do and suddenly be good at. So we’re going to give you the pieces of where you can start. But turning these things into success is going to require effort on your part over time. And so that’s not we can’t give you that. We can tell you how to go about it, but that’s going to require your follow through.
Squirrel: Gosh, you mean our listeners are going to have to have difficult conversations?
Jeffrey: That’s right. That’s a certainty.
Squirrel: Okay, well, if you’re interested in difficult conversations but not sure how to get started or you have questions about these elements or you have a different checklist, we’d love to hear from you. Thanks, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thanks, Squirrel.