150 Minutes of Power

Breakthroughs in unexpected contexts !

I recently had a startling experience while leading a meeting with a demotivated Agile pilot team.

After 2 sprints, serious concerns were still not being outspoken; people morale was low.

So, I convinced all employees and managers to get together in a session I had specifically designed for them.

Two things struck me:

First: energized by the unusual agenda, participants felt empowered at unfolding deep concerns and at finding creative solutions.

Second: I was awarded a WOW ! statement by the customer because of the positive outcome of the meeting.

This strategic partner of ours is one of the largest public companies in Canada. Are they serious about Agile ? – Yes.

The powerful 150 minutes session

My session strategy:

  • Safe environment for managers and employees
  • Powerful game to stimulate dialog
  • World Café formula to find solutions
  • Session constrained to 150 minutes
  • Dedicated facilitator (me)

Out of the mix, the second element clearly stood out as being instrumental to the success of the exercise.

A powerful tool – Moving Motivators

One great game developed by Jurgen Appelo for the Management 3.0 training course is called Moving Motivators. My goal was to have people relate to their own values as the trigger to initiate difficult discussions.

And it worked – Here is how I did it. Please feel free to replicate the strategy in your own context, I would love to get feedback from others on this.

Step 1 (5 minutes)

I got all 11 participants to sit around one big conference table. They had to determine which motivators were the most relevant to them. They did so by ordering the 10 motivators from left (least important) to the right (most important).

Step 2 (5 minutes)

I asked all participants this question:

By looking at all ordered cards from your colleagues around the table, what do you see?

Managers and employees started to talk a lot… And they saw patterns in the cards sequences of each other. Based on the top 5 most significant motivators from this group, they could communicate. I do recommend the reading of each card description here.

  • Ranked #1: Curiosity and Mastery
  • Ranked #2: Power
  • Ranked #3: Relatedness and Liberty

Step 3 (5 minutes)

The following question was asked:

After spending 2 sprints working together, how this Agile pilot project affects your motivators?

Players had to move cards up, if the Agile project impacted motivators positively. The cards had to be moved down, if the change had been negative.

I asked everyone what were the patterns emerging again. Ouch…, there was definitively something going on here:

  • Severely going down: Liberty (71%) – Relatedness (43%) – Mastery (33%)
  • Positively impacted: Curiosity (67%) – Power (38%)

3 out of the 5 most influential motivators for this group were going down the drain.

Step 4 (45 minutes)

Then, each participant had to speak out her mind during 4 minutes, without being interrupted by anybody.

One exception, I could interact with the participant  to stimulate discussion. At the end, everyone had fully taken their 4 minutes.

We then moved into solutions finding mode by initiating the World Café part of the session.

Wow… I will definitively repeat that experience again.

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  • http://agilepartnership.com/blogit/ Eric Laramée

    “Severely going down: Liberty (71%) – Relatedness (43%) – Mastery (33%)
    Positively impacted: Curiosity (67%) – Power (38%)”

    Wow!
    How many teams did I coach without me (or them) realizing this was happening? I will definitely add this to my toolbox.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Eric

    • http://www.pyxis-tech.com yves ferland

      Hi Éric,

      What I like the most about this tool is the fact that people are using their cards, and the ones from their colleagues, to speak up their minds.

      It was fascinating to hear them exchange on their issues. Furthermore, it was even more surprising to see them understand and recognize why colleague xyz was behaving in such a manner because on his/her own values.

      Powerful tool to demonstrate graphically the context in which complex issues are evolving during Agile transitions.

  • Frédérick Lussier

    Great work!

    Wish I was there. I will use it.

    • http://www.pyxis-tech.com yves ferland

      Thanks Frédérick,

      There are more games to come from the Management 3.0 course ware. I’m scheduled to start offering this training next January 2012.

  • françois beauregard

    Great work teammate!

    Thanks for sharing this and giving guidance on how this can be reused in other context. I can certainly see this being used in a team retrospectives and many other contexts.

    Even though, you do not give details, I think the initial step of ensuring a safe space is absolutely essential (may be we can cover that in a seperate blog post). Holding the space for the whole duration when discussing such crucial topics requires even higher facilitation skills in my opinion. Knowing how you work, I am sure you did an amazing job at it.

    This gets me thinking about the Leadership Agility model that we bring forward with leaders / managers. One essential skill we help leaders develop is the ability to lead Pivotal Conversations. This skill is highly underdeveloped not only in managers but also in ScrumMasters and Product Owners. I cannot count how many times I have attended counterproductive (even damaging) retrospectives where either nothing much useful was said because the conversation stayed in surface or because after two-minutes the ScrumMaster was emotionally activated and therefore lost complete awareness of the process.

    Let’s write on this. Stay tuned!

    • http://www.pyxis-tech.com yves ferland

      Thanks François for your feedback,

      Since both of us are quite active on crafting productive group sessions, I can relate to your statement on facilitation skills. This is something we could definitively include in upcoming posts; we do have a lot of knowledge to share on that perspective.

      My next post will discuss how managers can significantly improve their abilities. Handling pivotal conversations is obviously one of these.

      True… sprint retrospectives can go wrong and may merely scratch the surface sometimes – this is what I saw with the Agile pilot team. I think everybody learned a lot from the 150 minutes of power, including myself !

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  • Jonathan

    Hello Yves,

    I noticed the link to the card description sheet doesn’t work anymore. Here is the good url : http://www.management30.com/storage/exercises/04%20Moving%20Motivators%20-%20Pieces%20v1.01.pdf

    By the way, this exercise is really interesting. Thank you for sharing your experience.