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HH 005 - Dynamic Reteaming Interactive
I’m in New Zealand this week and today is the morning of my keynote. I thought I would write out, stream of consciousness-like, what I will say during the keynote. It’s a keynote without slides. In one way that’s very liberating to me because I get to be up in front, with a microphone and no visual aid. For another part of me, I hate to admit it, but I’m slightly terrified. So to calm my nerves, I’m writing. If I were to do the keynote right now, through the fingers on my keyboard, here is what I’d say starting with my pepeha, my introduction.
“Kia ora tātou
Ko Boney Mountain, Santa Monica Mountains Te Maunga
Ko Pacific Ocean Te Moana
Nō Thousand Oaks, California, ahau
Ko Shetzer Helfand Tōku whānau
Ko Heidi Tōku ingoa”
“It’s great to be here. I was actually supposed to come to this conference in 2020 and then covid got in the way. I hated canceling, however it was so early on in the days of covid that I was really afraid that I would have it on me and not know it, and then infect all of New Zealand. So I was really happy to get a new invitation from David to come to the Agile on the Beach New Zealand Conference this year. And it’s been such a great conference. So many wonderful sessions and conversations. I’m really grateful to be here.”
“So my talk is on Dynamic Reteaming. It’s the name of a book that I wrote about my experiences with team change in the software industry, in addition to the experiences of several colleagues who I interviewed for the book. “
I’m home now. Here’s what happened during the highly interactive keynote. I’m still on a high from it and can’t wait to do something like this again, which will most likely be Craft in Budapest or GoTo Chicago in May, 2023. For this one, the room was great since it was just movable chairs. There were approximately 100 people in attendance. I was so excited to get the people in action instead of passive watchers of slides or something. No slides rock!
Imagine I’m in NZ, up on the stage. Here’s my recollection of what happened, and what I said.
I first went over the fact that team change is inevitable. I had these colorful butterfly stickers available for whoever wanted them. (These remind me of 80s Lisa Frank stickers, iykyk. I have a huge 80s sticker collection.)
When getting across the idea of inevitability, I talked through a hand drawn ecocycle picture on a flip chart that I scribbled there moments before the keynote. After that, I walked the group through William Bridges endings, neutral zone and new beginnings, superimposed on the ecocycle. Here’s a glitzy visual of the imagery. This was my attempt to set context of team changes/dynamic reteaming.
After that intro, I launched into the interactive content. I told the group that when I did the interviews for my book Dynamic Reteaming, one of the key questions I would ask people was this:
Can you tell me a story about how your teams have changed in the past?
Next, I said something like the following. “So for you here today, I’d like you now to think about that question and write the answer on a notecard. (these were passed out before my keynote). Keep your notecard as you will use it later. How have your teams changed in the past? (pause for a short minute) Ok, Let’s see what our experiences have been like. Please stand up and find a partner. Tell them how your teams have changed in the past. (time went for 4 minutes). Ok, time is up. What did you get?” I then elicited a couple of answers and then continued on in my talk.
I said something like, “When I collected my interview data for my book, it was all over Zoom. I recorded sessions with participants, transcribed the data and analyzed it for themes. And what emerged, were five patterns, or five ways that teams change in our software organizations.”
“Take a look at your notecard and the team change story that you wrote. I’m going to run through all five of the patterns in brief. As I do that, I want you to “listen for” the pattern that your story represents and write it on the back of your card. If you’re not sure, you can put a question mark.”
The five patterns of Dynamic Reteaming are:
One by one is when someone joins your team, or when they leave your team
Grow and split is when your team grows bigger, and it splits in two or more teams
Merging is when your teams combine together
Isolation is when a new team is started, off to the side, apart from other teams
Switching is when people move from one team to another team
I continued, “OK. Did you write a pattern? Again, if you’re not sure, put a question mark. Now I’d like you all to stand up. Walk around and talk with each other. Find the people who wrote down the same pattern that you wrote.” Next, the people in the room got up and people shouted out the names of the patterns and formed clusters. It was alive! It was loud! It was interactive!
Quick introspection: I was scared to do this. I wondered, what if I was wrong with the patterns in my book. I mean, I did have a decent sample size there, but does it hold true in New Zealand? Will all of the patterns show up? In my keynotes up until this one I simply have asked participants to hold up their hands if someone has joined or left their company in the past month, and inevitably the majority in the room raises their hands. Here, though, felt like more of a risk.
Back to the scene. The room was still quite noisy and people worked around the chairs to form their cluster groups. I needed to give the room some instruction, so I raised my hand up in the air, and the room copied me, which quieted down the room. That was our conference “signal” to be quiet. What resulted in the room were five pattern groups, and one question mark group that, as one participant joked, was named the “McKinsey group,” after the consultancy that conducted reorgs at the participants' workplaces, mostly as I learned were large banks in NZ and Australia.
Here is a photo of the room with me on the right in purple/blue. You know, when I saw this photo on the internet I was so happy because look at my face. That’s a real smile there. I was elated with what was going on in the room. This was essentially more data collection for this Dynamic Reteaming topic I’m obsessed about.
What happened next? The largest pattern groups represented in the room were Merging and One by One. This was not surprising to me since Merging is, I’m convinced, connected to departures and we all know that there are too many firings and layoffs these days. One by one is probably the most frequent pattern anyway since people are joining and leaving companies all the time, as in nature.
Next I told the group to talk about two things in their pattern groups:
What makes the pattern challenging?
What is one thing that makes the pattern easier to deal with?
Conversation ensued. I gave them 10 minutes. Then I walked around and told each group that they had a minute left and to be prepared to share one idea that makes the pattern easier, when encountered in the wild.
Next. we went group by group and shared out, and that was it. As I am a clumsy facilitator, I forgot to call on one group, but they shrieked out and corrected my fumble. :-) That’s so me. I usually like to ask groups like this to give me permission ahead of time to be messy, because although I’m a confident facilitator, I’m a human imperfect messy facilitator and I love and own that now.
If I were to do this again, When I do this again, I’ll likely give people sticky notes, and then each cluster can capture practices that make it easier that they can stick onto flipchart paper that they can label with each pattern. Then people can take photos for later use, and harvest out better the tips and tricks. Maybe we could do a “gallery walk” from poster to poster. I also very much want to read about and write about the stories that were captured on the artifacts.
So as we do as facilitators and learners, we iterate and keep learning and we build on the awesome foundations that we have the courage to start. This was scary terrain for me, and let me tell you, it turned into this year’s professional career highlight so far. Thank you to Agile on the Beach New Zealand and all the amazing participants. Kia ora.
Thanks for reading my newsletter! If you made it this far, I’d love to gift you Chapter One of the second edition of Dynamic Reteaming - Click here to get your free chapter. That signup will keep you informed of upcoming live online cohort courses with me. Ready to dive in and learn with me in April? You can also sign up for the April cohort here. Thanks again, folks! I hope you have a great week.
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