How LEGO® can help you facilitate self-designing teams

Written by , in category Agile & Scrum

20 March 2019

Yes, you read that correctly: we’ll use LEGO® to support people in designing their own team structure(s). As Einstein once said: “Play is the highest form of research”. What you want people to do when designing their own teams is to research different possibilities, and decide on the best setup for them to accomplish their mission.

Giving people the space to create their own team structure is an evolution we have seen grow strongly in 2018. We want to avoid going back to high school and going through the “who do you want on your basketball team” experience. So how do we go about this? That’s where LEGO® comes in: the teams will collectively build a visual model, to help them research their team structure. Let’s break this down into the basic building blocks (pun definitely intended) that we use to facilitate this.

Step 1 is personal attributes of team members. Google did research on the secret ingredients of the perfect team. Their findings were published in HBR early 2017 and we use this as driver for the discussions when teams are forming. The 5 attributes (not personality types, as in you can have all of these attributes on different levels) are the most important styles of working and communicating with other people. We use different colors to indicate the different attributes and let people create their own personal profile which they than can bring to the discussion. When all the bricks of each person are combined, you get a good overview of the balance in these attributes across the (potential) team. This can help them identify possible tensions and deficits in this specific team setup that they are discussing. If you want more in depth information on how we use this, drop us a comment below and we can write a more in depth report of this later.

Step 2 is to identify the skills that are important to accomplish the mission the team is responsible for. Which is inspired on the use of the skill matrix from management 3.0. This is what you see on the left side with the white bricks in different sizes. Important detail is to limit the needed skills to a bare minimum, only the differentiating skills that are relevant. This will lead us to a different level of detail which we will expand on in a another post, drop us a comment if you are interested in knowing more. The reason to use different sizes and a different orientation is because with these skills we are not only interested in the combined total, like with the personal attributes, but more in the skill spread. We want the people to see for instance that there is a huge difference between having 1 person with level 3 in a certain skill in the team versus having 3 people with a level 1 proficiency. We use these visual indicators again to drive the conversations on the strengths and weaknesses of the team setup under discussion and to help them identify learning goals and actions.

We run these workshops in multiple iterations where the team members get to share their insights after each iteration with the entire group. This way they can negotiate a different team setup for the next round. This way the best team setup, given the current information and experience available, the team members can create will appear. In our experience it takes about 3-4 iterations to get to a stable team setup where the people really feel they have an optimised setup to try for a few months.

If you would like to know more details about this type of workshop, drop us a comment with your specific question down below. If you want to experience this in your organisation, or you want to discuss this in more detail on a video or audio call with one of us, drop us an email and we’ll get in touch.

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