You can help a team move through the norming phase by having them think about what it means to be a good team. One exercise that works really well is to have teams imagine the worst possible team and the best possible team. Based on a number of characteristics (like ‘communication’, ‘leadership’ and ‘quality’) I let them pair up and brainstorm typical behaviors and things you’re likely to hear when working with these teams. The pairs then present their findings, and we discuss what this means as a team. Not only is this a fun exercise to do, it helps teams become aware of productive and unproductive behaviors. It helps them think about what it means to be a good team, how people work together in these teams and what kind of behavior you’ll see in case of conflicts and stressful periods. Basically, the team creates a vision of what it means to be a good team. But also the opposite.
I tend do this exercise as as part of the Kickstart. Although teams will likely not arrive in the norming phase during that short time frame – where norms are important – it does help them think about whats important to them. An example of the exercise is shown below. The post-its on the outer left contain themes (‘collaboration, ‘communication’, ‘motivation’), while the other two columns contain typical behaviors and sayings for respectively the worst and the best team as brainstormed by the various pairs.
An alternative exercise is to have the team formulate a Team Manifest. Barry Overeem has written an excellent post on how to do this. My experience is that this exercise works best with teams that are comfortable enough with each other to express disagreement. If this safety is not yet present – which is often the case with new teams – the manifest will just contain a lot of open doors (a ‘politically correct Team Manifesto’). But it will not describe how people really feel. Therefore, this exercise is better reserved for when the team actually hits the norming phase. It is then that creating a manifesto has the most value.
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