The Art of Teaming, Part 3

In addition to working agreements (covered in The Art of Teaming, Part 2), teams often benefit from having a set of shared values and a Definition of Done (DoD). It’s best if teams create these right from the start of their time together, but team values and a DoD can be created at any time. Teams own their values and DoD, which cannot be handed down to them – the team needs to create these themselves. When helping teams form, I use the techniques I describe below as they are collaborative, creative and facilitate the team’s owning of the results. I’ve previously shared these techniques during an Open Space session at the Scrum Alliance Global Scrum Gathering 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Team Values

Team values are a set of statements that describe what is important to the team. Values guide the team in their work and decisions as they journey towards high-performance. For example, a team may choose to value Focus, Courage, Openness, Commitment and Respect (the Scrum values). By choosing these values, the team looks for ways to live them out more and more each day. Of course, different teams will have different values and that’s okay. What is most important is that each team agrees on what they value and incorporates those values in how they approach their daily work.

Hero Wall

The “Hero Wall” is a check-in activity I use to start the discussion about values with a team. I start the activity by asking each team member to draw a picture of their hero. They may also choose to include words that describe their hero and/or why they chose that person as their hero. Each team member is then asked to share who they drew and why. The drawings are then posted on the wall, thus creating the “Hero Wall.”

Hero Wall

Hero Wall


Discovery Cards

Now that team members have engaged with the creative part of their brain through drawing, I have them explore thoughts about themselves and their team. Doing so furthers their understanding of each other and reveals where they have things in common. Completing the discovery cards also serves to provide different views into the thoughts the team has about itself, which will come in handy later in the activity when they decide on a single word to represent each value. The statements on the “discovery cards” are:

  • I don’t like it when people…/I like it when people…
  • Something important about our team is…
  • Something unique about our team is…
Discovery Cards

Discovery Cards

The first two statements stem from an activity I first saw described on a Solutions IQ blog about building team values. First, team members are asked to divide a Post-it note or index card in half by drawing a line horizontally across it, leaving a top half and bottom half. On the top half of the card, the team member completes the statement, “I don’t like it when people…” Each team member writes as many of these as they can within the timebox provided. Next, they pass the cards to the person on their right who fills in the bottom half of the card in response to what their team member wrote in the top half. This response comes in the form of an opposite sentiment as the team member completes the statement, “I like it when people…” These cards are then posted on the wall.

Team members also complete the thoughts, “Something important about our team is…” and “Something unique about our team is…” by writing one thought per card. These are also posted on the wall.

Affinity Grouping

At this point in the session, the wall will be covered with the following:

  • Hero drawings from each team member
  • I don’t like it when…/I like it when…cards
  • Something important about our team is…cards
  • Something unique about our team is…cards

The team is encouraged to place all of the items in groups on the wall based on likeness, which is the essence of affinity grouping. To help the team to determine what values are represented by each of the groups, I ask questions such as:

  • What surprises you here?
  • What stands out to you?
  • What patterns do you see?
  • What thought most resonates with you about this group?

The goal is to arrive at one word that best describes the whole group and which becomes one of the team’s values. This can be challenging to facilitate and requires allowance for discussion, periods of silence and time for team members to process their thoughts. Eventually, the team will agree on a word for each grouping, while also dropping or refining some groupings along the way. The team now has their set of values.

Value Statements

Finally, to solidify the thoughts represented by each identified value, the team creates a short statement or description of each value that further clarifies its meaning. Depending on the team, it may work well to do this together in the same session or to take a break until the next day. It can be beneficial to allow team members to spend some time thinking and crafting phrases that best describe each value. Once the team agrees on the value statements, you will end up with something like this:

  • Responsibility – as a team we are accountable for our actions
  • Mentoring – being both a teacher and a student
  • Honesty – facing reality together

Team Value: Mentoring

Team Value: Mentoring

Team Value: Honesty

Team Value: Honesty

Definition of Done (DoD)

Similar to values, a team’s Definition of Done (DoD) serves to provide it with a shared understanding of what it means to have completed a piece of work. I often describe the DoD as a team’s own internal quality standards. It’s important for teams to consider everything that needs to happen and the level of quality needed in their work, before the team can ship a product. The DoD guides the team in building a consistent, high-quality product.

My preferred approach to help teams create their Definition of Done (DoD) is to use the Definition of Done Exercise as described by Mitch Lacey. This approach ensures that all perspectives are heard and that team members all truly agree with and understand each item in their DoD.

With team values, a set of working agreements and a Definition of Done in place, the team is ready to tackle any challenge.

What activities do you use to set teams up for success? Please share your ideas below. I’d love to hear from you.