team

Ctrl + Alt + Delete: Rebooting a Team – Part 1

Has your team lost motivation? Is it more a group of individuals doing work, instead of a group of people greater than the sum of it’s parts? Are there many arguments, none of them constructive? Well, maybe it’s time for a team reboot. In this article, I’ll show you to reboot your team and get them working as a single unit again.

You could also use these steps for starting out a brand new team for the first time.

Where to start?

It all starts with the people. The people in your team are the single most important thing. Everyone is different, we all come from different backgrounds, have different experiences, skills and knowledge we can bring to the team.

The first thing we do when rebuilding a team is to reflect where we’ve come from. When we understand where we’ve come from, we start to build connections between each other, human connections. It’s the human connections that help build strong bonds between team members, and it’s these bonds that help us through the tough times together.

So when building a team from scratch, I like to use a technique called “Journey Lines”. I’m not sure exactly where the technique originated from, but it is an excellent way of getting to know each other, and it’s a really simple process.

Journey Lines

This takes about 1 hour for a group of 8 people. So ideal for a team retrospective.

Gather everyone in a safe environment (or virtual tool) such as miro.com.

To get started, you draw a horizontal T shape. On the left hand (vertical) axis, you have happy, neutral and unhappy. On the bottom (horizontal) axis you have time, like so:

Then, as a team spend 15 minutes drawing the journey of your life, up to this point.

When things made you happy, make sure your journey line is in the happy section, when things made you sad, make sure your line goes down to the unhappy section. Plot your happiness over time, and annotate key events that made you feel that way.

When everyone has completed their journey lines chart, ask them to read out their chart to everyone else in the group, describing their journey in detail. Each person can include as little or as much personal information as possible – don’t force it.

If you start seeing similarities between different people, start calling them out. Encourage people to ask questions. Right now, you are seeing people’s lives, their highs and their lows. You can empathise with how people got to where they are today, you are building a human connection between people, building trust. You are taking the first steps to building a great team.

My Journey Line

Here’s my journey line on how I became a Scrum Master:

  • I started life as a software developer in 2004
  • Then I ended up spending most my time planning and re-planning Gantt charts
  • I found Scrum in about 2007 and started to implement it where I worked
  • There was an opportunity to become a full time Scrum Master; so I took it!
  • Then I was offered a great contract at an investment bank as a Project Manager – that made me sad eventually
  • But… I realised I liked Scrum more; so took back my old job as a Scrum Master
  • I loved this role, I grew myself by mentoring, coaching and training people (hello Anna, Tony and Nicole!)
  • I even ran an Introduction to Scrum course (hello everyone at uCheck!)
  • And I continue to build Agile Batman to help anyone else that needs it

Do you feel like you know me better already? Did you also go on a similar path to me as a Scrum Master?

Summary

Journey lines are a simple, but powerful method of building human connections between people that don’t know each other very well yet. You shouldn’t force people to reveal everything about their life, just ask them to contribute what they are comfortable with; you’ll be surprised how much people want to talk about themselves when you just ask.

After this journey, you’ll know a lot more about your colleagues, you might realise you have other things in common, maybe you share a similar hobby and you start talking about that in your spare time.

Try journey lines, experiment and see what effect it has on your team.

Stephen Waring
Stephen Waring

I’m an enthusiastic and energetic Scrum Master who loves everything about Agile!