Agile Teams Self Select with Squadification

Using squadification to put team selection, autonomy, mastery and purpose, in the hands of the team members not managers.

The Situation

ZXM was engaged by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) to uplift their agile capability and maturity. They were looking to improve alignment and collaboration between delivery teams, business and stakeholders. A key driver was to meet challenging timeframes, and to manage changing requirements.

ZXM coaches identified that the teams’ work was hampered by handoffs and delays outside of their control. The individual teams did not have all the skills within the teams that they needed to deliver value.  The Branch was made up of functional based teams which led to a very Waterfall approach in delivery and multiple handoffs between component and systems-based teams.

ZXM proposed combining the teams into three cross-functional agile teams. Moving from functional based teams into cross-functional teams. The teams needed to form new teams without losing delivery momentum.

The Solution

CER’s CEO agreed to the transition to cross-functional teams, but were looking to minimise the normal disruption that occurs with team changes, while at the same time inspire their people on their Agile journey.

ZXM addressed CER’s needs with a facilitated ‘Squadification’ workshop to empower team members to choose who they want to work with and what they want to work on, rather than the traditional method of managers choosing who would be in what team.

This was a big cultural shift for CER project management leadership to basically entrust the lifeline of your product to the tech team, allow them to form squads around initiatives, and trust them to deliver. It was however, very empowering, and team members felt valued and trusted and really liked having a say in the type of work they would be doing. This is also when people do their best work.

 

Why Squadification?

Squadification places the onus of responsibility of individuals to determine what team they want to belong to. Much of the research into people’s productivity reflects, including Google’s Project Aristotle, highlight that people are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy
We’re all built with an inner drive.
People with managers who support self-directed work and “autonomy support” — helping employees make progress by giving meaningful feedback, choice over how to do things, and encouragement — have higher job satisfaction and better job performance (Deci, 1971).
Mastery
We want to get better at doing things.
A sense of progress, not just in our work, but our capabilities, contributes to our inner drive. The trick is not to give tasks fitting a person’s exact capabilities, but to give them space and support to reach a little higher to foster improvement, continual mastery, and growth.
Purpose
People who find purpose in their work unlock the highest level of the motivation game.
Managers who help employees connect to something larger than themselves have the resilience and sustainable fuel to keep moving. While all companies face their own roller coaster of business ups and downs, true purpose allows those swings to create less whiplash and distraction for the team.

The squadification pattern produces high levels of individual and team-level motivation, performance and productivity through promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose.

What the Squadification process involved

Individuals created their own ID cards to share their strengths, areas of interest and what they were looking for in a team.

Guidelines were set to ensure balanced teams across skills, and full/part timers. Leadership support was demonstrated, with initial introductions setting the scene and empowering team members to make their own decisions within the guidelines provided.

The Product Owner for each team pitched their mission statement and the attributes they were looking for in their teams. Following two timeboxed rounds of discussion and confidence votes, three agile teams with a mix of skills and a makeup that considered everyone’s strengths and interests, were presented to the leadership team.

selecting teams through squadification

Over three subsequent rounds, people placed their ID cards against the team they wanted to work with. At the end of each round, the Scrum Master for the team related the picture of capability against their team and what was still needed to create a strong, self-organising and cross-functional team.

Unlike the “captain picks” model, no person was left without a team.

The Results

Crafting many teams can take managers weeks. Large programs of work can take months to organise people into different teams in an attempt to form the perfect set of teams.

With strong leadership backing, new cross-functional Agile teams were created within a timeboxed 2-hour event. The team members reported feeling a sense of ownership of their new team makeup, having had the opportunity to self select, guided by the needs of the team.

The teams were able to build on that solid beginning, holding team naming and charter workshops after the Squadification event, to further build their own identity based on the personality of their team members.

With the new teams formed, and identities created, the three teams were now capable of owning a product through all stages of delivery. The teams also experienced a faster delivery of value with the reduced amount of handover between capabilities, as well as greater  collaboration when working together.

Improved alignment

Improved alignment and collaboration between team level capability and the outcomes needed to deliver business value.

Rapid creation of cross functional teams

Each agile team had all the mix of skills needed to deliver value.
Team members empowered.

Faster delivery

Reduction in handovers between the previous traditional, functional based silos rapidly reduced delivery time.

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