“Scaling” the team – part one

No, this post is not about increasing the size of your development team, but about how to establish some measurements in your team – typically during the retrospectives, but not only – to support continuous improvement: let’s talk about Solution Focused Scales.

I already discussed this technique in my Solution Focus presentation, but listening to how people use this information, I realised I did not stress a few details that are actually quite important for a proper implementation of the technique.

using scales in agile team coaching, part 1

We’re using scales when we ask somebody – or, as it’s usually the case in agile, a team – to rate a certain aspect on a scale from, typically, 1 to 10, where 1 is the worst it can be and 10 is not improvable at all. At first sight this might look similar to the Team Radar described in the book “Agile Retrospectives”, but it’s actually a much more powerful instrument. Let’s look at it in detail and let’s start first with the single-client case, i.e. coach and client. We’ll expand this to a team on the next post…

Scale

One-to-One

There are three important things to discuss when using a scale:

  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, where are you now? / how do you rate [something] / …
    This question establishes the starting point for our measurement, but it’s also the opportunity to value what the client has already done. No matter how rotten your company might be, still you cannot randomly pick the same number of people from the street and replace your team with them. I rephrase: no matter how bad the situation might look like, still you are doing something that will be difficult to replace. This something has to be valued to support the self-esteem of the client, but also because in what the client did there are also things that worked well and that we don’t want to lose.
    The typical question that follows the rating is some variation of “what did you do to reach this value?”. The reply of the client will usually stress what worked and should be considered also in the future.
  2. Where should you be on the scale to have solved your problem?
    This sets a wish: we don’t know whether the client will ever reach that level and whether it’s realistic at all, but this answer sets the bar.
  3. Scale up
    Now, iterating from the lowest rating, we ask the client how to reach one level higher on the scale. There are several options here, though the first question has the goal to move the client to the solution state: “How would you recognise that you have reached level n+1?”. From this point on it’s a matter of exploring the differences compared to level n: “What is different?”, “How would others recognise it?”, … – the whole arsenal of systemic and circular questions, as well as everything else you can think of, is available (but, the question about “why” is still one to avoid!)

And then you continue like this until the client has reached the wished level.

In the next post I will describe some more tips on using scales and how to use them with a group: stay tuned!

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