Books, Meeting Facilitation

Job or Joy & The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Some weeks ago I was asked to facilitate the warm-up for our management offsite. It was the first offsite for this group of people as there had been some changes in the management lately. I thought it would be a good idea to start with “Job or Joy” and then raise the participant’s awareness of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team from Patrick Lencioni.

I found “Job or Joy” on It “helps you discover what you and your colleagues like best and least about your jobs” and it also helps you to get to know your colleagues better in general.

You need to prepare a (big) chart with four quadrants and name those joy, hobbies, chores and job. Explain to the participants what the exercise is about and then give them about 5 minutes to write as many post-its about themselves for each quadrant as they like. After that each participant introduces her-/himself to the group while sticking the post-its in the corresponding quadrant.


Here are two observations that will most probably happen with any group:

  1. Every participant will learn something “new” about another participant, no matter how long they have known each other or have worked together: “I didn’t know that you like/hate…”
  2. There are more post-its on the upper half (Likes) than on the lower half (Dislikes). Actually there are the most post-its in the “hobbies” quadrant.

Here are some non-scientific explanations? 🙂
We think we already know colleagues we’ve been working together for a long time. Often we reduce them to a person of our working life and forget about the fact that there’s more to life than work. With “Job or Joy” you learn more about your colleagues and recognize (again) more the person than her/his job activities. (“It’s the person John and not the developer John.”)

It seems very natural, that we prefer to talk about what we like than to talk about what we don’t like. That explains why there are more post-its in the upper half of the chart.
But wouldn’t it be great to have at least the same amount of post-its (likes) on the right and left quadrant of the upper half? Like writing a project report is the same joyful activity as playing soccer. Any suggestions here? 🙂

The connection to Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
When we start to share other aspects of our lives than work with our colleagues, we also start to speak openly with them about other things. Additionally we start to lower our protection shields. And all this starts to build trust which would be a starting point for overcoming the first dysfunction of a team.

five-dysfunctions-of-a-teamIn functional teams, team members feel comfortable with being exposed to the others and to honestly admit: “I made a mistake.” or “I need help.” or “I’m sorry.” or “You can do this much better than me.” Furthermore it is also a great sign of trust within a team, when you can openly address that you don’t like what is/has happened.

Not all members of the management read the book already. But I think they at least got a little curious, especially after I mentioned that the story of the book is actually about a management team at an offsite… 😉

As Lencioni describes in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team it is, of course, not that easy to establish trust with only one excercise. Nevertheless “Job or Joy” seems to be a great exercise to start overcoming the first dysfunction of a team: “Trust”.

Books, Meeting Facilitation

6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision & NUF Test

In the last weeks I facilitated three sessions for our Sales Team in which I mixed up or combined different creative methods: 6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision and NUF Test. The goal was to create different ranked lists with answers to the question “How can we increase our total revenue?”

6-3-5 brainwriting
6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision, NUF TestThe 6-3-5 brainwriting was the first session and created 162 ideas from 9 different persons within 45 minutes. (Read my post on how to use 6-3-5 brainwriting here ») A Sales colleague and myself clustered the ideas afterwards and we could start the following session with 17 topics that directly resulted out of the clustering of the 6-3-5 brainwriting.

2020 Vision & NUF Test
The second session lasted 90 minutes (with a 5 minutes break). I started with introducing the cluster generated topics. After that we discussed and noted the benefits for each topic. This very straight forward excercise is necessary to shed a light on all topics, so that everyone gets about the same idea what is understood by the topic. I left out the ranking part of the 2020 vision and continued with the NUF Test.

The NUF Test “tests” each topic on three different criteria. We chose “new” (Is it a new idea?), “useful” (Would it really help to increase our total revenue?) and “feasible” (Can it be realized or is it utopia?) as the criteria, but you could as well adapt the criteria to your needs. The group rates each topic on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being poor and 10 being top) for each criterion.

To get a quick agreement of the group for the individual scores we used a normal deck of cards (with Ace (=1) to 10) : Like in Agile Planning Poker everyone put the card with his score upside down on the table. After everyone had put down their card, everyone turns the card and checks with the group members. After a bumpy start with the first ratings we gained speed and quickly rated all topics. (And it was fun! :))
As a result you already have a nicely ranked list of your ideas by simply adding up all scores for each topic.
But we wanted to take it one step further and met for a third session….

(2020 Vision and NUF Test are best described in the book Gamestroming from D. Gray, S. Brown and J. Macanufo. If you don’t have it, BUY IT!)

NUF Test and Ranking

As an additional criterion we added “estimated earnings” to our list of 17 topics. This turned out to be difficult for some of the group because it is hard to give an estimating for a topic you are not really familiar with. (But it’s “only” an estimate, isn’t it?) This time, we used post-its to write down the estimates individually and then adjusted the estimate with the group.
Finally we split all topics in two categories (Can we realize the topic predominantly by ourselves? OR Is there predominantly an external dependency to realize it?) and finished the session after 50 minutes.

After the three session we had four ranked lists:
– all topics ranked by NUF
– all topics ranked by “Est. Earnings”
– topics that can be realized by ourselves ranked by NUF and “Est. Earnings”
– topics that can be realized only with external dependency ranked by NUF and “Est. Earnings”

What do you think?
Does it sound like combining too many methods or like worth giving it a try?

Agile Coaching, Meeting Facilitation

LEGO Serious Play: Modeling & Story-Telling

Some weeks ago I attended the “StrategicPlay® Fundamentals Facilitator Training” at the StrategicPlay® headquarters and have used elements of LEGO Serious Play™ (LSP) quite some time with teams since then. As a Playmobil® fan it is “shocking” to see how easy you can use LSP for solving complex problems or helping team members to understand each other better. 😉 And additionally it is fun.

LEGO Serious Play Session

LSP’s theoretical background consists of four key elements:
Constructionism, Play, Imagination and Identity. You can dig into the science of LSP by reading this wonderful PDF.

A LSP session can have the following acitivities:
Building a model >> Presenting others your model by telling your story >> Watching and hearing the others presenting their model >> Deconstructing and then building a new model or rebuilding your model…
LEGO Serious Play Session 2By iterating this sequence you are becoming more and more confident about your modeling and story-telling skills. As all participants are building a model about the same subject, you are at the same time sharing knowledge, ideas or problems with the others. After starting with straight-forward subjects (like “Build a tower as high as possible.”) it feels easy to deal with methaphorical subjects (like “Build your perfect team process.”) after some iterations.
I have just started to use LSP with teams, but am convinced, that an experienced StrategicPlay® facillitator can help any team to reveal the true essence of a problem and then find sustainable solutions.

By now I have used LSP in a couple of 2 hour team sessions mainly to discuss their process and their roles within the team. This is only the start. LSP seems to allow infinite options for working with (agile) teams. I am very lucky to have our management sponsoring the LSP Landscape and Identity Set (not available at the moment…), which you definitely need for larger workshops (“We are building our company vision.”). I’m planning to have a Sprint Retrospective with LSP before Christmas and will let you know about my experiences.

Good Question!, Meeting Facilitation

How to Deal with Results from an Agile Retrospective?

Have you ever heard a team complaining about results of a retrospective not being realized? I have. And it’s important to change something immediately after hearing it.
Realizing the agreed improvments from the retrospective is one of the agile principles of the Agile Manifesto:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. (
So if you are earnestly doing an agile “Inspect & Adapt” and do not realize the agreed improvements of a retrospective, you are missing the whole point and are doing a simple “Inspect”.

The answers to the following questions could help to make sure improvements are realized:

  • Who is responsible to realize the improvement?
  • How can you be sure that the improvements are not forgotten?
  • How are your improvements logged?

Who is responsible to realize the improvement?
Always agree in the retrospective who will be responsible for putting the improvement into effect. This can one or two persons. Write their names next to the agreed improvement. Do not assign the responsibility to the whole team as nobody will feel responsible then.
Problems that the team can’t solve themselves are impediment and  it’s then the Scrum Master’s job to push it up to the management: fast and direct. And it’s the Scrum Master’s job to get on the management’s nerves until the impediment is solved.

visualize improvements from retrospective
How can you be sure that the improvements are not forgotten?
Visualize the results of the retrospective. What seems to be working very well with us is to put a copy of the agreed improvements on the team’s board: Everyone sees it everyday at the Daily Stand-Up. Alternatively: Improvements turn to User Stories that are done within the next (!) sprint. Here it’s the Scum Master’s job to make sure this happens.

How are your improvements logged?
With “logged” I mean the structure of your agreed improvement in the retrospective:
1) Write whole sentences and not bullet points. This may take a little longer, but you (and everyone else) will understand them also after a few days.

2) As mentioned: Assign one or two responsible persons for the improvement.

3) Agree on a deadline when the improvement should be put into effect (or at least agree on a date when the team gets feedback on the status of the improvement)

Related post:
3 Retrospectives in 2 Days

Agile Coaching, Meeting Facilitation

Agile Team Retrospective Activities: Starfish & Team Radar

Variety in retrospective activities are definitely necessary. The more retrospectives I do, the more I’m getting tired of using the same method over and over again. And hey, this will most probably bore the teams I work with as well. Therefore it’s good to challenge the team AND you with new retrospective techniques. In the last weeks I tried out Starfish and Team Radar in retrospectives.

Starfish is a fantastic activity to get your team to re-think the basic questions:
What went well in the last iteration? How can we do better?

starfish retrospective

Starfish refines those two questions and gets more detailed information from the participant instead of just a binary view. If you know retrospectives the different categories of the Starfish are self-explanatory, for everyone else I recommend the post from Pat Kua from 2006.

You can either let the team write post-its for every category one after the other or let the team handle all categories at once.
After the team has gathered the data you can start right away with some clustering or go straight to agreed, detailed improvements for the next wees by exploiting categories: stop, start or less.

Team Radar
Team Radar is powerful if you have a communicative team. It’s not so good if team members prefer writing post-its to talking (if you know hwat I mean… 😉 ).
You can pick 4 to 5 subjects that either you or the team think are worth discussing in detail. Those subjects can be team values like Respect, Feedback or Communication. Alternatively you can also choose reoccuring subjects from former retrospectives like quality of code skills, effectivity of the team etc. If you are not 100% sure what subjects to choose, only suggest subjects and then let the team decide.

team radar retrospective
This is how you can work with Team Radar:

  1. Explain to the team what you think that every subject means and then let the team discuss/agree on that
  2. For every subject let everyone dot/rate on a scale from 0 to 10 where she/he thinks the team stands concerning this subject
  3. Discuss each subject in detail and agree on concrete improvements:
    • Be aware if dots are far away from each other on one subject. This is most probably because of misunderstandings within the team.
    • As I mentioned before: This activity is for communicative teams. Take care that everyone gets the same time limit for their opinion.

Team Radar is described in detail in still the best book on Agile Retrospective Activities: Esther Derby and Diana Larsen “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great”.

Nevertheless, with a new team, it is important to start and train the basic chain of a retrospective before starting with alternative activities and risking to overburden the team:
1) Warm-Up: What happened in the last iteration?
2) Prime Directive and basic group rules: Explain why those are important.
3) What went well in the last iteration?
4) How can we do better, how can we improve our process?
5) Is there anything we CAN’T change by ourselves?
6) What in detail will we change until the next retrospective?

Related Post:
3 retrospectives in 2 Days

Meeting Facilitation

108 Ideas in 30 Minutes

6-3-5 Brainwriting is a Brainstorming method that generates 108 different ideas or views for any topic within 30 minutes.

This is how 6-3-5 works:

1) Choose your brainstorming topic/question

2) Prepare the sheets with the topic/question and a table of 6 rows and 3 columns (see image below)

3) Make a short introduction/warm-up with the team to introduce he topic/question

4) Hand out the sheets, then explain to the team what to do:

  • Think of 3 ideas that are coming to your mind when thinking about the topic/question.
  • Write each idea in one of the three table cells of the first row.
  • The time-box is 5 minutes .
  • As this is a brainstorming there are no wrong ideas, answers or views: think of anything and don’t let yourself be restricted by any current limiting factors.

5) After the first 5 minutes explain to the team what to do:

  • Please pass your ideas to the left person next to you.
  • Please read the 3 ideas on the sheet that was handed to you.
  • You can now either refine those ideas or write new ideas in the next row, again limit yourself to 3 ideas.
  • Single rule: It is not allowed to repeat ideas that you have already added or that are already on the sheet.

6) Repeat 5) until all six rows are filled in.

6-3-5 Brainwriting

7) To weight the ideas the team should now dot all ideas:
Every team member gets 3 dots for every sheet (for instance: 6 sheets = 18 dots) and can place the dots near the idea they think are the best. Rule: Stick max. 3 dots per sheet. You can either do this by pinning all sheets against a wall or passing the sheets around (with a 1 minute time-box per sheet).

As a result you will have 108 (6 rows x 3 ideas x 6 sheets) ideas that have already been weighted by the team. Of course, there will be duplicate ideas, but only some. With a team of six this will only take approx. 45 minutes (generating ideas PLUS weighting). The gathered data could then be clustered in a next meeting…

6-3-5 Brainwriting is great because:

  • you get a lot of different ideas within a short period of time
  • by writing: everyone’s ideas are “heard” (not only the ideas of the “loudest”)
  • by reading: everyone’s ideas are exchanged and maybe even refined
  • by weighting you normally get a tendency what to do next with the gathered data

Last week I tried 6-3-5 even in a beer garden and even there it worked perfectly!