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Who’s that Stranger Under my Couch?

One loop around the top level and one loop around the bottom level is one half mile, if you include a loop around the men’s section in Macys.

Who’s that Stranger Under my Couch? My wife and I walk the mall to get exercise during the winter months or when inclement weather makes outdoor walking impossible. Last week the mall was decorated and prepared for the holiday season. We were on the lower level passing the Santa Claus visiting area when I looked over at Santa. I did a double take, because there before me was Santa Claus doing the twist. I did not notice it before, but the mall speakers where playing the Beatles version of “Twist and Shout”. Santa had taken the song to heart, and was really taking it to town with his white beard flying from side to side, along with his belly like a bowl full of jelly.

The line to see Santa had just started to form, and there in the front of the line was a family with the grandparents, parents, and two young children; a boy about 5 years old and a little girl around 3 years old. I could see a face flush with concern and bewilderment. Spellbound, the little girl stared at the rocking Santa, not sure what to make of it all. Santa was in a role that she could not comprehend or appreciate; I could see she was not connecting with Santa.

Three weeks ago I was at a Microsoft Dynamics NAV client site and participated in the implementation team’s daily standup. The team was on sprint 7 and had not made much progress on the project. The team’s velocity was far below normal and the team was not effectively delivering on what they planned.

The client portion of the team was sitting around a conference phone talking to the ArcherPoint project manager, who was acting as the sprint facilitator. I could see a face flush with concern and bewilderment. One of the client team members was staring down at the conference phone and shaking her head. The team member was clearly not into the sprint. Much like the little girl in the mall who could not connect with the person in the role of rocking Santa, the team member was not connecting with the person in role of sprint facilitator.

Later on I talked to the executive sponsor of the project and the project manager. Everyone agreed that a change was in order. We talked about a number of ideas to increase the team’s velocity. One of the ideas I put forward was to take a client team member, and make that person the sprint facilitator instead of the project manager. We selected a person that had been very vocal on the team and had worked well with other team members.

Two weeks later I reviewed the progress of the team. I could see a face flush with concern and bewilderment; it was mine. I could not believe the results shown on the burndown chart. The team was very much on target and had delivering the sprint as promised. The change I witnessed was beyond my comprehension. How could simply switching the role of sprint facilitator between two individuals on the team create such a dramatic and sudden change in the team’s results?

You might find the answer to this question in your own home, with your family. As a family you might work great as a team, but introduce a stranger into the mix and suddenly the family might become quite dysfunctional. Introducing a stranger to an existing sprint team is difficult enough, but giving that stranger the key role of sprint facilitator is really pushing the boundaries of group dynamics.

What I took away from this experience was the lesson that the experienced stranger might not be the best choice with a client team for the role of sprint facilitator. The team might connect and respond better to a lesser experienced, but better known team member.

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Great post, echos what I've found which are that most important factors on a project for me are:
1) Get the right people in the right role, no templates for that and often people surprise you. Its often not the most senior people or even experienced who contribute the most.
2) Don't continue to struggle when its not going right, there is no loss of pride for saying its not working as it needs to and changing things around. No one will remember once the projects successful and its the best thing for everyone concerned as they will enjoy the project much more and therfeore put more effort into it.
Posted @ Friday, December 23, 2011 10:37 AM by James Crowter

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