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More Productive Teams through Essence

Improving Team Performance

Developing technical solutions is hard work. To make things easier, a number of practices and frameworks have become popular. They provide structure and guidance to help teams develop their solutions more successfully. I’m thinking of things like Scrum, the Kanban Method, User Stories and Test Driven Development.

However, doing these things well is also hard work. Despite in depth training, books, conferences and certificates, people still struggle to apply these practices well. Jeff Sutherland, co-founder of Scrum estimates that 58% of Scrum implementations fail. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily the fault of Scrum, since his analysis also shows that the average Scrum team implements about 1/3 of Scrum well, 1/3 poorly and 1/3 not at all.

Therefore, one of the most powerful ways to improve team performance is to optimize how they use the practices that they have already chosen and been trained in. Once they are applying the practices well, they can than  move forward to optimize them.

Essence makes it easy to identify how well teams are applying their practice. The Practice Patience game helps teams compare what they are doing to what the practice says they should be doing one practice element at a time. Because the practice elements are described clearly and concisely, they are easy to understand and it is clear whether the team is conforming to them or not.

Once we identify where the team can improve, the Practice Spotlight game helps identify how. For each element we want to improve, the team analyzes how other practice elements interact with it. They discuss how it is reinforced or compromised and identify ways they can improve.

As an added bonus, playing these games successfully requires that teams are open, honest and transparent with each other. The conversations that the games encourage help to build trust and using concurrent gameplay techniques (such as anonymous voting) further helps break down barriers and drive honesty. These are also all factors in creating teams with psychological safety – the single most important factor in creating high-performing teams according to Google’s Project Aristotle.

In this way, a team using Essence can easily identify how to optimize their use of the practices they have chosen – a first and extremely powerful step towards also optimizing their productivity. And in doing so also build psychological safety, helping improve their overall performance.

 

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