We recently introduced you to the Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, by marketers in the article A New Way to Navigate Agile Marketing. The Navigator consists of four main components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices and Roles. Within these categories there are several implementation pieces.
Last week we talked about how to run a great team showcase as part of the multi-stage launch cycle. Today we dive into the next part of the Adoption Cycle journey – the Team Improvement Session.
Team Improvement vs. Retrospective: Same meaning, different emphasis
Team Improvement is a collaborative session for team members to address continuous improvement. The goal is to find a small action item that the team can implement in the upcoming cycle to improve collaboration. Reflecting on the last launch cycle helps the team learn from actual events.
You may have heard of the so-called retrospective in Scrum, and if you’re already familiar with or practicing retros, keep up the good work. We’re not changing the meaning of something we already know works amazingly well, but we’ve given the name a slight facelift – so let me tell you how this story unfolded.
After almost a decade of coaching many teams, I noticed the missing element that wasn’t happening (even though by definition it should be) which actually improves team collaboration. Over time, these meetings often turned into bitch sessions where I’d hear things like, “We don’t have the right martech stack to do our job,” but instead of finding solutions and solving problems, it was Repeating the same complaint week after week. And that felt counterproductive.
Although team improvement and retrospective are synonymous, the emphasis on the words “team improvement” was intentionally placed to ensure that the focus remains on becoming a continuously improving team, and not just looking back over and over at what’s going well and what’s not again.
Team Improvement Benefits
Agility is all about continuous improvement. Agile marketing is never done, as that would mean learning the basics is enough. High performing teams are always thinking about how they can improve and teams that feel empowered really enjoy this session because they feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment.
A team improvement session should be conducted by the team for the team. This is where practice leads and stakeholders need to step out of the way and give the team space to solve their own problems without interference. When I’ve seen a boss step in and try to solve a problem for the team, it turns off their power and they naturally surrender to the boss. A team automatically feels psychologically safer among peers, so avoid power dynamics here if possible.
The benefits of a team improvement session are:
- Continuous improvement.
- Builds trust and relationships.
- A safe place to speak up.
- Empowers the team to solve their own problems.
All of this leads to a more efficient team.
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Tips for moderation
If you have an Agile Champion role on your team, that person should be the moderator. If this role does not exist, create a rotating facilitator responsibility. The facilitator needs to keep that fun and engaging while remaining a neutral party.
A site like Tasty Cupcakes can inspire some fun ideas for this session to keep it interesting, especially in a virtual setting. There are also several automated tools available – here’s a comprehensive list to try.
While it’s easy to fall into the trap of team improvement meetings having the same format every cycle, mix it up. In any case, have fun with it! The sailboat is a classic agile theme. There are many online resources showing how to create a sailboat template: here is an example.
First, the team revolves around a project or initiative. Next, a timebox is set for the team to fill out the virtual sticky notes in each category. Anywhere between five and ten minutes is good, depending on the size and complexity of your team.
The categories that the team will think about are:
- Wind in our sails – what drives us?
- Beacons on the horizon – which milestones, goals are imminent?
- Anchors hold us back – what’s stopping us from making progress?
- Reefs or rocks that we see in front of us – what do we have to avoid?
After everyone has had a chance to silently submit sticky notes (you can even send the submission ahead of time if you have people in different time zones), a timed discussion will take place and everyone should have a chance to share their thoughts.
The final conclusion and most important is: what one actionable element will we commit to that will help us move forward as a team? This is the team improvement piece and truly the golden nugget of it all.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.