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High performing teams: Agile coach offers fun team building activities

High performing teams are able to balance creative conflict and safe communication, according to Agile Coach Ryan Polk of Rally Software, whom the Atlanta Scrum Users Group hosted at their January 25 meetup. Polk illustrated the variations between teams with a continuum featuring “Conflict” on one end and “Harmony” on the other. At some point between “Creative Conflict” and “Fun/Play,” towards the center of this continuum, is where high-performing teams can be found.

He explained, “If you don’t have people working together, no amount of process or tools or framework will result in a high-performing Agile team.” Then he reviewed the typical Agile ceremonies, discussing how the standard practices break down when a team isn’t working together effectively.

The Agile practice that Polk highlighted most was retrospectives. He said that they may be the most important activity, though many practitioners may avoid retrospectives because team members lose interest in them. He offered several fun approaches to get started with retrospectives, including activities such a “Draw me a picture,” “Futurespectives” and “Break-up letter.” He also recommended the book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.

In addition, he offered some suggestions about the estimation process, which he said should not be overly time-consuming, but rather an off-the-cuff activity, and he offered examples of estimation games that can take some of the pain out of this process, such as “Planning Poker” and “High-Low Showdown.” He emphasized that these activities “feel like games, and they enable estimation in a safe environment. They are also very accurate.”

More information from this presentation is coming soon on Ryan Polk’s blog.  

Recent articles on SSQ related to Agile team work include:

Scrum vs. Kanban: Comparing new approaches in software development

Collaboration, discipline and software quality: Wisdom from Uncle Bob Martin

Agile testing quadrants: Guiding managers and teams in test strategies

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