Impact of conscious and unconscious group dynamics in Agile teams
Impact of conscious and unconscious group dynamics in Agile teams
When people get together to work in groups, conscious and unconscious dynamics come into play that have an impact on how teams achieve their results or fail to do so. When soldiers fight in trenches, any misalignment of Boundaries, Authority, Roles and Task, called BART, can be fatal. While in organisations the danger is not to life, consequences of not managing BART are still significant. Drawing from the tradition of Group Relations Conference methodology and Systems Psychodynamic approach, this session is for any one who works on Agile transformations and wants to deepen their understanding of group dynamics by looking at what happens at both conscious and unconscious levels.
Boundary issues in teams and organisations
What happens when Agile teams feel that managers are intervening too much and they no longer feel self managed? It is a boundary issue and how it is managed can determine how effective Agile implementation is. Boundary issues in groups refer to task, time and territory boundaries and if those boundaries are not managed well, they can lead to dysfunction in a team or organisation.
Authority is the right to do work and is formally invested in the job one takes up. However, people also exercise personal authority in how they discharge their roles. When someone takes authority, they also take responsibility and accountability. What happens when there is abdication of authority? Or someone’s exercise of authority interferes with others work. e.g., In Agile, self managed teams own delivery and hence should have the required authority and accountability. The reality though is that managers are still held responsible perhaps with out the required authority. The dynamics that this creates are well known to anyone who has ever worked with Agile teams.
Roles people play
People occupy roles and they can be formal or informal roles. So what is the role of a coach? When we ask this question to any group of Agile coaches, the answers are almost always different in some aspects while having some similarity. How come a role which is defined same for all coaches is understood and executed differently by those holding that role? Lack of clarity on what roles each of us play in Agile transformations can impact the outcomes.
Conflicts arise if perceptions of task are different from person to person or group to group. And as individuals and teams manage boundaries, exercise authority and execute different roles, the question to keep centre stage is - what for? What is the task of the individual or group for which it has been created? In common parlance its the goal, mission or reason for why a team or organisation exists. e.g., does everyone know clearly what is the overall goal for transformation? And more specifically, does everyone know what task they have to perform so that the larger goal is achieved? If that clarity is not provided, groups can go off track with turf fights, blame games and do everything else but the task for which they were created. Result is the feeling that Agile does not work!
This session will help participants explore these four facets of group dynamics as they play out during Agile transformations. The application of BART concept is useful for managers, coaches, agile teams and anyone who works with groups.
Acknowledgement: Based on work done by Zachary Gabriel Green and René J. Molenkamp (2005)
Taking A Systemic Approach to Agile Transformations - Framework Agnostic Agile
Working with teams and organizations over several years, we would often hear comments like “Agile doesn’t work for us”, “Agile is good in theory not in practice”. These responses left us wondering what was really happening and led us to what we think are critical missing links. Firstly, implementation of Agile seems very mechanistic and lacking “ a systemic view”. Secondly, frameworks (scrum, Kanban, safe etc) seem to be driving the transformation and have become the face (definition) of Agile.
We addressed some of these challenges in our work as Agile coaches and this session is to share our approach that emerged from those learnings.“System Driven Transformation (SDT)” is our approach - it is not another framework, rather it’s a thinking approach like TDD (it’s a way we approach coding).
This workshop will help you understand SDT to start looking at Agile with a systemic lens based on the philosophy “ Framework Agnostic Agile”. The philosophy is to honour the values of Agile Manifesto (www.agilemaniesto.org) and be driven by that rather than the frameworks. The workshop will help you reflect on missing links in your own systems.
System Driven Transformation (SDT) approach to Agile keeps centre stage the need/s of the system* that is seeking change. System can be the smallest team which is implementing Agile or the wider organisation seeking change.
Driving factor for transformation is the goal for the transformation. This is what the system desires as outcome of Agile transformation. It is formulated by considering current state of the system; challenges the system is facing or the wishes the system has. This defines everything that is done as part of transformation process.
A critical part of defining the goal is diagnosis. It is to understand not just what can be seen – the issues / problems / challenges – which are merely the symptoms – but also to figure out the underlying reasons for these challenges. It involves diagnosis of technology / process ( current software development process, engineering deficits), structure ( organization / team ), people (leadership, collaboration, capability), culture or strategy ( context for change).
The next step in our approach is to work along with the clients to determine the interventions .There can be many ways to achieve the goal but for us, solutions are guided by the values of Agile manifesto (www.agilemanifesto.org) and not constrained by existing Agile frameworks. The solution may involve using any of the existing Agile frameworks , or a combination of them. Or, it may also be a unique framework that evolves keeping in view needs of the system. Our interventions also focus on structure and people aspects of transformation so that the change effort is holistic and sustainable.
This approach is still evolving, and hence this workshop is invitation for people to expand this approach!
Exploring dynamics of Manager - Agile Coach Relationship
There is often a situation between managers and the coaches where the Managers think the coaches intervene in the delivery, while the coaches argue the managers do 'command and control'. Often, these two parts of system are seen on opposing sides. We at AgileSattva, believe that every component in the system has a role and there is a relationship between all the stakeholders. [updated] The key important stake holders are "Coaches" and "Managers".[/updated] This relationship has important contrbituion and impact towards transforming the teams/systems.
[updated] In our experiences working with Agile Coaches (as part of supervision of their work to resolve their stuckness), we find a pattern in the way they relate to Leadership and Management group of the teams. In bringing our observation to the awareness of coaches, their thinking pattern changes and are able to move towards effective transformations. [/updated]
In this workshop, we would invite the participants to explore the dynamics of this relationship and its impact on the team/ system through activities, reflective exercises and discussions.
[updated]We use Transactional Analysis (Eric Berne, 1961) as a framework to understand this relationship. We may use Psychodrama (Jacob L Moreno) activities with the group to explore the dynamics. [/updated]
Group Imago is defined by Berne in 1966 as ‘‘a mental image of the dynamic relationships between the people in the group, including the therapist; idiosyncratic for each individual patient". This is used in organizations where the group refers to the teams, therapist could be consultant/manager/coach and individual patient are member of that team.
The important part of using this model in Agile coaching is to bring out the "unconscious thinking" of how Coaches/Managers see the team and themselves in relation to the team (system).
The mode of activity could be through drawings/arrangement of their mental image of the team and self on paper or a field (where we could use floor or tables). More details here may set people be conscious, hence would be happy to share it over the call/mail.
Psychodrama is a school of group therapy also used for Organizational Development to build cohesive teams, analyze difficult situations, setting up value system in the organization etc. sociometry is the study of social relations between individuals—interpersonal relationships. The activity is 'setting up scene' with a situation (difficult situation) a person (coach/manager) is facing at their work place. The setup could be again using toys/real people representing people from their situation. This is also to explore the way the interaction is happening in that situation. This gives a wholistic picture of the system (unconscious thinking of people in the system). sociometry involves techniques for identifying, organizing, and giving feedback on specific interpersonal preferences an individual has. For example, in a psychodrama sociometry session, we may want to explore the cold war between team members that has been unseen or ignored from long time. [reference in wikipedia]
Like I mentioned, both the activities are tools to bring out the unconscious thinking to the conscious, so the activity evolves as we are facilitating.
I am OK, You are OK
There is a level of "assumptions" that each one of us work with, while we deal with any system. Here in this case the system could be a team member, the manager, the management, or the entire organization. While we work with assumptions, the conversations or the discussions or the work we do, can seem like getting nowhere because of the conflicts, and a sense of frustration piles on .This is a common situation and a very common feeling amongst Coaches/Scrum masters/Project Managers or anyone dealing with project management scenarios. That is where "contracting" helps us get our way through!
Contracting is a concept of "Transactional Analysis" school of psychology. Eric Berne defines it as "an explicit bilateral commitment to a well-defined course of action". Sometimes contracts will be multi-handed - all parties to the contract will have their own expectations. In the unusual event that these are all congruent, then fine. However, if not, then discussing everyone's expectations will lead to greater understanding and therefore to a clear contract. The risk in not doing this is that problems in completing the contract will emerge at some stage.
3 Categories of contracts are administrative, professional and psychological.
Administrative contracts deals with the operational agreements- like fees, who has to do what, time, frequency, attendees etc.
Professional contracts deals with the expectations from each role and clarifies the essential setup required to achieve the same
Psychological contracts talks about how we work as people and help to understand how we express our comforts/ discomforts
Amongst the three contracts psychological contracts are very essential and often ignored in projects. This type of contract will help us co-create any assignment and it’s a powerful tool for Agile coaches while they work with their teams, managers, organization etc.
Further to agree with any contract, both the parties should operate from a space where there is mutual trust and concern (I am Ok , You are Ok).
This report will discuss in detail about these contracts with examples from Agile projects, in an activity based sessions. We will also discuss the life positions based on 'I am OK, You are OK' theory.
Note: Please note that this presentation is not about the business/financial contracts that most of us are aware of. However, the framework of contracts could be applied in any situation including the business/financial contracts.
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