When we have an opportunity to participate in making one agile team from its very beginning, we can grow and learn together with the team. At first, we joined in fundamental rules created with the team members. Then, during the software development, we get to know each other better, and over time, as we speed up our performance, our team fluency becomes more visible. Eventually, with certain reliability, we can claim that we know how our team “breathes.”
But what if we are unable to experience all that? What if we need to step into a team, we were not a part of before?
Whether you are a scrum master or a project manager, before you step into a team which exists for a while, there are some things that you might need to consider. However, even if you are in some other role — developer, tester, or just a person who got the opportunity to be a part of a brand new environment, this article might guide you on how to assimilate quickly and gain the team’s trust.
The tactic I apply comes down to three simple phases that can give you a good start and solid ground for a future relationship.
Like any other analysis, this phase will take your time and forbearance. But, from my point of view, it is essential because all knowledge and information you gain about your new team will help you later to establish valuable relationships. So, I highly recommend not to hurry. Just watch and listen.
However, listening to what people are saying and how they behave daily to find out more about their performance or personalities is not always easy. You might come into temptation when you see some deviations or wrong patterns in their behavior that you would love to change immediately. But the crucial thing is that you don’t take any actions at the beginning of the journey with your brand new team.
Always have in mind that you don’t know the team very well. Something you have noticed today may look different in two or three weeks. Instead, please write it down and see it later; it still makes sense to bring it up when you gain the team’s trust.
Bad actions or wrong spoken words can’t be withdrawn in a particular moment.
2. Gain trust
Whatever you do in your life, gaining people’s trust is the hardest. If the team doesn’t trust you as its leader, all your great ideas and proposals could be easily thrown away. So, having a team’s trust is essential for future relationships and collaboration. But how do you gain it?
From my experience, whatever your role is in the team, you will certainly not make any regrets simply by nurturing five Scrum Values. Instead, commitment, Focus, Openness, Courage, and Respect will give you the right direction for steps you should take and decisions.
Commitment is crucial for building a relationship worth of trust. As the team’s scrum master or project manager, you will need to commit that you will support and help your team fellows to work together as a unit — to trust each other to follow through on what they say they are going to do. Also, you will need to encourage them to be careful not to over-commit. As their team member, this applies to you, as well — you should agree to take on tasks for which you believe you can complete!
Focus goes hand in hand with commitment. It means that whatever we start, we need to finish. If we are committed to some specific work, we should find a way to be focused enough to finish it. Helping your team with everyday prioritization and limitation of work in progress will make the best possible progress towards your shared goals.
We all know that developing or maintaining software is not always easy. Some work is more predictable; some it isn’t. Sometimes we are prevented from fulfilling our commitments for good reasons. Sometimes we make wrong judgments. After all, we are just human beings, right?! Important thing is to be open about it! If we are experiencing difficulties and need help or make some mistakes, we need to be honest about it. Openness also means that you, together with your team, constantly lookout for fresh ideas and opportunities to learn and grow.
If you seek success, you should not be afraid to try new things. However, not everyone is brave enough to try to conquer new challenges. Courage depends highly on our personalities and previous experience. But, as someone who leads the team, you should try at least to empower your team fellows to question the status quo when it hampers their ability to succeed.
Suppose we aim to become reliable and valuable team members. In that case, we need to demonstrate respect towards all roles in the team equally and treat their individuality with care — respect each other’s personalities, knowledge, and skills! It means that we need to work together by trusting and supporting one another. We need to give a space to present each other’s ideas and respect others’ feedback regarding our ideas. We need to provide each further permission to have a lousy day once in a while and recognize each other’s accomplishments and send praises.
As the Scrum Guide defines, when these five values are embodied, “the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection and adaptation come to life building trust”!
3. Take actions
How long it will take to meet your new team and build a relationship worth trust depends on the project, your team fellows, and the overall environment in which you operate together. Then, based on your perception, intuition, or common sense, you can start to take some actions with the team’s consensus.
As a precaution, I would recommend you to start with the small, not too heavy, actions which will lead to overall improvements, so it would not require too much effort from the team. Having you as a new scrum master or project manager is already a significant change for the team, so try not to be ambitious and take baby steps when it comes to actions that you propose. As time goes by, decision-making and taking actions will become natural to all of you.
Eventually, you and your team will bond, your relationship will become more robust, and the boundaries mentioned at the beginning of this article will vanish. Then, with certain reliability, you will claim that you know how the team “breathes” even if you were not a part of its making.
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