Session type:

Case Study

Presented by:

Preetha Ramaswamy

The Co-operative Group

Andy Tabberer

The Co-operative Group

Session time:

10 May 14:00 15:00

Session duration:

60 minutes

About the session

How short-term disruption is a long-term benefit when it leads to improved collaboration and team performance.

We broke the golden rule of agile – let the team decide – and took over the running of a failing team. Through the magic of Kanban, war games, time to experiment/innovate and high standards, we gave a team in constant flux a safe space to do less and find its purpose.

This team had seen it all. Two years of reorgs, team reshuffles, role changes, staff losses due to covid and IR35, coupled with changes at leadership level. What remained was a shrinking team stuck in firefighting mode, supporting multiple services against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty. Their capacity was severely constrained; context switching became the norm. Though different ways of working were tried, the results remained the same. The product team mindset which had served them well in the past was causing conflicting priorities, with the realisation paying down tech debt was the key focus. The end result, unsurprisingly, was knowledge silos, increased burnout, unrealistic goals, a growing backlog and cognitive overload, with no time for personal development or experimentation. The team had become the proverbial boiling frog.

After several months of coaching and supporting from the outside, allowing the team to fail, we were faced with the ultimate dilemma: do we keep letting the team fail or do we intervene?

Hear about how:

  • We transformed a struggling team through planned interventions.
  • We instilled high standards by defining and then role modelling what good looks like.
  • We used games – like war rooms exercises – to encourage the team (by stealth) to tackle tech debt routinely.
  • We used a pull system, gave control back to the team and improved collaboration.
  • We created a space for the team to do less, agree its own priorities and find its true purpose.
  • We increased team participation and individual contributions and helped everyone to find their voice.
  • We introduced data and metrics as a way of driving improved team performance.

Participant Takeaways:

  • The anti-patterns that we found during our journey that will resonate with others in a similar situation.
  • Strategies to break down knowledge silos.
  • How to create a learning environment in difficult circumstances.
  • How to overcome behavioural challenges when we need teams to adopt new ways of working.
  • Using tools and data to visualise metrics and drive meaningful conversations, and to push back on unrealistic requests from business stakeholders
  • How to overcome resistance to limiting work in progress.

Agile Transformation, Continuous Delivery, Kanban, Productivity, Metrics, DevOps, Psychological Safety, Learning, Inclusivity, Problem Solving, Self-Management

About the speaker(s)