Reading the scrum guide is not a big thing, adding more theory is also not much effort, you just need some reading time. Are you, after reading tons of literature, a good Scrum Master / Agile Coach / Product Manager whatever? Not at all, you learned the theory – this is not the hard part of the job. Even if you can quote them you are not a hero – you just proved your reading skills. Experience and adaptation are what you really need to grow and this is something nobody can teach you by book … you have to make your own mistakes and go through your own failures to grow. None of these maturity models try to really focus on this. Why? Because it is almost impossible to measure or maybe it is too much common sense.
Takumi (匠) is the Japanese word for „artisan“, somebody who is a true master of his profession. 60.000 hours of practice make you a Takumi. 60.000 hours of repeating and during these endless repeats you learn and move on your road to perfection.
10.000 repetitions make you a master, 60.000 hours of practicing make you a Takumi. No shortcuts, just getting your hands dirty and do the real inspect and adapt thing. So reading along – keep this in mind – practice is what makes you great. If you just read stuff you will be a good reader afterward but not a master of the content you read.
Back to maturity models, what do we want to measure or achieve with it for a specific role?
What to measure?
Is this a career path, is this a way how to get from junior to senior level or is this a management controlling tool. None of these usages are great ideas, but they are very common out there. In some environments maturity models are used to define the wage of an employee, this does not feel „agile“ at all. It feels like this is just another management bullshit checklist to form people in a way business wants and needs them.
Talking about „agile“ teams, what you really want to achieve is a shared level of leadership inside the team. This is not an easy task, because you first have to achieve an individual level of leadership before you can put them together in a team environment.
Leadership for sure is one of the most used buzzwords nowadays and most of the time you use it only in management or top-level context. But what we need in teams is a shared understanding of leadership, so that self-organization inside the team can grow and align to the needs of the organization.
What is leadership? More than ten years ago Google wanted to answer this epic question „What makes a great manager?“. The research they started was called „Project Oxygen“, and in the end they identified ten points (two of them where added later, and some got an update the last years) what makes a great manager and what are the individual skills you need for persons, taking responsibility, in cross-functional teams. Let’s use these terms and transform them into a team leadership approach.
1. Being a good coach
Coaching is not a one-man show or part of one role inside the team. It is an individual strength every person should take responsibility for. Coaching is a daily part of teamwork where your share practices you have some specific knowledge of. Sharing knowledge and helping others to grow is the main skill every teammate should be bringing along. It doesn’t need heroes that follow just a (maturity) checklist, it needs real cooperation and the will to share knowledge with others to make teams great.
2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
What sounds like a typical management failure is often an individual failure, too. Every member of the team should agree to empower the team and not to micromanage his own stakes and career options inside the team environment.
3. Create an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
Respect and support across the team is a superpower for successful teams, taking care of others and leave nobody behind should be self-evident if you want to grow together as a team.
4. Being productive and results-oriented
Outcome and not output is the goal a team wants to achieve, this needs focus – focus on value and aligned goals – this can create the purpose for the team and its members.
5. Being a good communicator
Communication is the key and communication is not a privilege for extroverted people. You need a candor way of communication in the team, even about hard topics and problems that show up. Speaking about the elephant in the room is hard, but necessary for creating a space of trust and psychological safety.
6. Supports career development and discuss performance
In a self-organized environment career is not a management task its part of the team. Talking about individual strengths and weaknesses should be natural. Speaking openly about career makes individual goals visible and you can create an environment of support for these individual goals inside the team.
7. Having a clear vision/strategy for the team
Did you ever fill out a team canvas? Having a clear team vision and strategy is a work in progress during the whole lifetime of a team or project and it is allowed to change during the time if it stays aligned. A shared vision/strategy is what aligns and empower a team to move in the same direction and giving the team the feeling of „doing the right“ – It’s these purpose thing everybody is talking about.
8. Having key technical skills to help the team
This is the mystery of being cross-functional. No, you don’t need to be an expert in every single technology, but you need a shared understanding of the technologies you need inside the team so that you can support each other. Not on a deep technical level, but in a problem-solving way. Solving problems together is what motivates individuals as well as teams.
9. Collaborates across the company
High performing teams are getting isolated very fast if they don’t watch out. This is not a causality to performance most of the time this is a problem of arrogance and isolation by accident. Make sure that you talk about wins, failures, and learnings outside the team too. These are learning opportunities not only for you and your teammates, but these are also learning opportunities for other teams and individuals. You and your team are not special in any way, they are just another small part of a bigger organization. To grow you need to support the growth and success of the whole organization, not only of your team but keep also aware of the surroundings.
10. Being a strong decision-maker
Decisions are part of our daily work. Big decisions were we have no idea how things move on but also the small decisions that you have to make every hour of the day. Make decisions as a team and as an individual and hold on to your decisions. What you need inside the team is an environment of trust and a common understanding of the prime directive. Agree to disagree is one of the strongest and most underrated ways how teams should deal with decisions where they don’t find a consensus or that were made by individual teammates. Trust, in the decisions of others and our own decisions, is the key to making strong decisions that create impact and move forward.
Leadership is a team effort
When you look at the last ten points, it’s getting clear that leadership is not a one-man show – leadership is a team effort and creating a shared team leadership should be the greater goal of every team and the supporting roles. Leadership is more than just steering teams and human resources, making decisions and tell other people what you should do – mostly it is about responsibility, in the shared way we talk about the team taking over this responsibility and creating a shared understanding of team leadership and responsibilities.
Not a maturity model!
Please don’t create a checklist or maturity model of these ten points and try to achieve them or, even worse, push people to achieve them. Look at these points as a guideline where you want to be, but be open to change things if they don’t match your current situation, this – for me – is the real intention of being „agile“.
As a manager keep this in mind, a team can not be built by design, it is emerging and you need to support this growth adaptively and not just adding checklists and maturity models. Last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, don’t hide common sense and pragmatism in „agile“ methods and approaches – let common sense and pragmatism feel natural and „welcome“ again. This is what guides us in life, so we can use it in business and projects too – and even you don’t have a nice-sounding buzzword for it, use it!
If you want to get really great on your occasion as a team or individual – stop reading now and start practicing your 60.000 hours and get a Takumi!