Team Coaching-Taming the Herd

Abhi Chaturvedi

I was a coach to a team in an agile transformation. In one of the retrospective forum, I asked the team to rate the performance of the team based on low, medium and high over the past six months and share the pain points with the team.

The team response was averaged out between low and medium The team had in the past had defined some values such as trust, collaboration, transparency, respect, and agreed to abide by these values

My job was to ensure to identify pain points and ensure continuous improvement and efficiency over the course of time. The intent was to ensure, the team reached at least a medium percentile over 6 months.

I organised an open forum and asked the team to be vocal about teething issues with team performance. To my disbelief majority of the people focused on problems either not in their control ,such as organisational changes, Government Policy & Regulation, Diversity etc. Do I need to relinquish faith in human intelligence ?

My challenge was to regain focus and concentration of the team on issues that matters and not get lost in issues not with thin their control.

I took one of the teams from the portfolio for workshop lunch in a casual and open environment. The team of 15 comprised of Business Analyst, Functional Consultant, Testers, Architects , Scrum Masters etc.

I asked each of the team members to score the performance of the team over six months by picking an alphabet from A to Z on the current state, and then pick an alphabet for desired state, on the assumption the current state alphabet is earlier in the alphabet chain then the desired state.

I then requested each of the team members to list down at least two key behaviours on the flip chart, that would help close the gap between current and targeted states. All of a sudden, I could see graffiti of 30 odd ideas on the wall. The team then categorized those ideas in to themes to move beyond habitual thinking and preconceived categories.

In consultation with the team, picked up the most valuable theme and highlighted two important behaviors to change for all team members.( Recommended not to choose more than 2 behaviours)

I asked each team member to hold a dialogue with other members suggesting two areas of potential behaviour change. This session was important to foster an environment of trust , empathy and collegiality.

The onus was on the team members to choose one out of two area of improvement and announce to the team to seek their support and consensus. The collective momentum of behavioural change will be a step forward towards the desired state.

The next step was to ensure behaviours are monitored and continuously inspected. I asked the team to ask for a brief on monthly basis on suggestions for the future from all other team members to help increase their effectiveness in demonstrating the one key behaviour common to all team members, the one key personal behaviour generated from team member input, and overall effective behaviour as a team member

I conducted a mini-survey, follow-up process every two months. From the mini survey each team member received confidential feedback from all other team members on his or her perceived change in effectiveness. This survey included the one common behavioural item, the one personal behavioural item, and the overall team member item.

The process worked; the survey showed considerable improvement over the course of time. Every month I organised and facilitated the retrospective on observations and behaviours of the team on the chosen areas of improvement.

After six months, I again took the team for a team building exercise and as expected the team rated the performance of the team between medium and high.

The coaching approach provided the team with a transparent, measurable and equally loaded service proposition.This approach supports and aligns expectations throughout the entirety of the coaching tenure.