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40 Ways to Invest in More Resilient Teams

Published: May 20, 2017

You can’t build muscle without breaking down muscle and recovering. You can’t build resilience and strength without some discomfort and repair. You can’t learn if you are always focused on efficiency (and if you aren’t open to feeling a bit dumb sometimes). You can’t expect teams to show “initiative and autonomy” if you smother them in helicopter management and process.

There are no silver bullets. When people harp on about “10x teams” they very rarely consider the cost of creating that environment and fostering the psychological safety required for risk taking. It is an investment and commitment, and not something you can simply install (despite what consultants will sell you).

Short-term growth will always be more alluring. But a sound economic framework will always respect/understand the cost of that growth. Again … it is an investment. Stress the system too hard with growth (vs. investing in “positive” stressors to build resilience) and the system collapses.

1 oUg8EcVu4LsIrtaqVo3yjA 1. Rotate who “runs” standup

  1. Explore new retrospective formats
  2. Extended new hire onboarding. All new hires work the support queue, sit with sales, and listen in on customer success calls
  3. Run developer exchange programs with other teams
  4. Monitors with real-time customer feedback from support/feedback channels
  5. Anything that involves a team stepping away from their normal setting (an activity, trip, exercise, etc.)
  6. Voluntary facilitation and conflict resolution training. Non-violent communication
  7. Enforce a “Zero known defects in production” policy. All work stops, across all teams, if there is a bug in production
  8. Kill-A-Feature days
  9. Limit work in progress in situations where there are cross-team dependencies. Don’t “work around” other teams. Swarm to fix. Limit work in progress in general
  10. Step away from digital tools for worfklow. Use a wall, cards, and tape when you are figuring out better ways of working
  11. Figure out a way to have all team members use the product to do actual work! Or at a minimum be onsite with a customer and observe them for a couple hours working naturally
  12. Shorten iteration lengths. Implement continuous integration and continuous deployment
  13. Feature toggles to test features with new customers
  14. Work through bottlenecks and not around them. Even if it means slowing down in the short term
  15. Standing “bounties” for product development teams. For example, any team, at any time, is free to deliver something that moves Metric X without moving Metric Y
  16. Large-scale “Map the Debt” activities. Visualize current capability gaps
  17. Conduct premortems
  18. Have all team members present when collaborating across teams (instead of just team managers or project managers … see Unproject Culture)
  19. Peer mentorship programs
  20. Ask teams to write up their own health check framework
  21. Desk-swap days across whole company
  22. Have multiple teams attempt parallel solutions. Do a bake-off based on actual outcomes delivered to customers
  23. Create an internal podcast bringing in guests from across the org
  24. Pairing and mob programming
  25. Optional meetings. Leave if you aren’t adding value
  26. Customer visits involving the whole team. Get in a van
  27. Avoid extensive pre-planning and designing. Accept some messiness as the team wraps their head around the problem. Consider a multi-day co-design type activity
  28. Crowd-source status updates and team stories. Make them public and accessible to everyone
  29. Cross-team craft guilds (e.g. security, UX patterns, etc.)
  30. Open-space Kaizen events
  31. Public call schedules, so any developer/UX can jump on a customer call (sales, support, or otherwise)
  32. Workshops days. Reserve all conference rooms, and conduct workshops with volunteer teachers/facilitators
  33. Value-stream and capability mapping across teams to explore potential overlaps and opportunities
  34. Design sprints away from keyboards
  35. Lunch roulette across different functional areas
  36. Vision exercises with multi-disciplinary groups. What would awesome look like across all departments within the company?
  37. CEO/C-level open office hours. Or better yet, the CEO visits teams in their environment
  38. Workshops on how the company actually makes money. Explain the fundamental economics to everyone
  39. You get the idea … learning in a safe situation, pushing the limits, focusing on long term growth over short term efficiency, and building resiliency