Even though the startup world showed that playfulness is not an enemy of productivity and many other companies realize it by now, there is still a stigma about playful teams. But, most of the times that I felt that more work was being done was when the team had confidence enough in each other to the point where everybody felt comfortable to allow themselves to take time to chat, be together outside meeting rooms and make jokes.
The process to become a playful efficient team it is not without obstacles, especially when starting a new project, a new team. For every project people joint efforts to meet expected results. Be it in whatever industry, people need to create their own way of working as a team.
It is very usual for teams to start a project not performing adequately. Each group might go through different stages before becoming a high performing team. Susan Wheelan (2010) argues that the critical task is to recognize the step that the group is and act on it. Also, most agile frameworks tend to focus on teams rather than individuals, but both have to be considered. Before going into the teams itself, it is essential for people to realize their own role.
Teams are made up of individuals, and people need to know themselves to interact with others.
Understanding your role and the impact of your words
Great leaders have emotional intelligence. For Goleman (1995), emotional intelligence help people in five domains: self-awareness, self- regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. A good leader would be able to recognize from different frameworks or set of recommendations which tool can be more useful to develop and nurture the team. Leaders and all team members can build leadership skills and empathy by considering the Johari Window, Meta-awareness, and Metacognition.
Teams that show high performance and trust can communicate, reflect and feedback each other. With the Johari Window, it is possible to go more in-depth on feedbacks and reflections. Getting to understand blind areas or even ones that are a mystery.
I have talked about meta-awareness and metacognition before, but here is a wrap-up. Meta-awareness happens when individuals can realize what is going on with our thoughts and emotions, frequently while we are experiencing something, our thoughts might be wandering, but we still go on because we are not aware it.
Metacognition means thinking about thinking, after recognizing our thoughts and emotions (meta-awareness), it is possible to develop a strategy of thinking that can regulate a response and shift our actions. The metacognitive leader could be able to help teams deal with conflicts and make better decisions.
Tools: from a group to a playful team
No team can be productive without trust, one way of doing it is to incorporate rituals or activities into the team dynamics.
After extensive research, Dougherty and Takacs came to the conclusion that having fun can create a new boundary for innovation. Through playfulness, companies can create a way to align the corporate goals while giving teams autonomy. Dougherty and Takacs recommend team play as the boundary that permits multiple new product teams because it preserves the members on each project team by giving them resources, room, and autonomy of action, while also connecting the diverse groups to organizational objectives.
Susan Wheelan (2010), there are four stages of team development: dependency and inclusion, counter-dependency and fighting, trust and structure and work and productivity.
- Dependency and Inclusion: Team Canvas
On the dependency and inclusion stage, the group is getting to know each other and still rely on a leader for instruction to produce.
2. Counter-dependency and Fighting: Yes and…
On the counter-dependency and fighting stage, the team gets more comfortable to express themselves, and by showing different visions on procedures and goals they get into conflict, at this stage, it is crucial to manage conflict and help the team to create a set of shared goals and methods to proceed.
3. Trust and Structure: Marshmallow Challenge
During the trust and structure stage, the team shows itself more mature, and they create together to create positive relationships.
4. Work and Productivity: Feedback
At the work and productivity stage, the group becomes a team and shows high performance of quality and quantity of work. To maintain the fourth level, leaders and teams would have to be clear about problems and evaluate them regularly.
5. Termination: Retrospective
This is not an stage for regular team, but projects come to end. Even when a team is going to work together in another project it is important to look back and reflect on what happened and what can be improoved.
Adapting it to your framework, a Scrum example
Sutherland (2015), one of the creators of Scrum, indicates that it is possible to do twice the work in half the time with Scrum. The framework uses artifacts, events, roles, and rules to keep the team at a good pace. With Scrum, teams are cross-functional, have autonomy and a purpose.
There are three central roles in Scrum, scrum master, product owner, and the scrum team. The scrum master is the facilitator of the team, his role is more related to a coach and not a leader of the team. Many of the problems faced on different stages on the Susan Wheelan model could be tackled by a facilitator role as the scrum master.
Many organizations that adpot Scurm are changing the team structures to be cross-functionals and self-facilitate themselves. But it is possible to say that in most organizations, the individuals still have functional managers. Functional managers should not influence the work of a team working on a project, but they can also have an essential role for individuals. Functional managers can serve as an outside source to remember individuals about business goals and help them to reflect about their role.
Having a playful environment doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody has to love each other, but by understanding ourselves and opening up to interact with people on a lightweight manner can produce the trust the team needs to have to be autonomous and productive. Hopefully with more smiles 😉
Read more on:
•Awad, M. A (2005). Comparison between Agile and Traditional Software Development Methodologies. School of Computer Schience and software engeniring. The University of Western Australia.
•Dougherty, Deborah and Takacs, Helen (2004). Heedful Interrelating as the Boundary for Innovation. Long Range Planning. 37 (6) 569–590.
•Goleman, Daniel (1995). Emotional intelligence. Bantam Book.
•Hart, Hugh (2015) Yes, And … 5 More Lessons In Improv-ing Collaboration And Creativity From Second City. Fast Company [Online] https://www.fastcompany.com/3042080/yes-and-5-more-lessons-in-improv-ing-collaboration-and-creativity-from-second-city [Accessed 20 May 2018].
•Luft, Joseph. The Johari Window: A graphic model for awareness in interpersonal relations. Available at: http://www.convivendo.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/johari-window-articolo-originale.pdf [Accessed 20 May 2018].
•Scrum Guide. (2017) [Online] Available at: http://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html [Accessed 20 May 2018].
•Sutherland, Jeff (2015). Scrum — The art of doing twice the work in half the time. London: Random House
•Team Canvas [Online] Available at: http://theteamcanvas.com [Accessed 20 May 2018].
•Wheelan, Susan A. (2010) Creating effective teams. Sage Publications
- Wujec, Tom (2015) Marshmallow Challenge. [Online] Available at: https://www.tomwujec.com/design-projects/marshmallow-challenge/ [Accessed 20 May 2018].