IMPROVing Agile Teams

By | September 14, 2015

If you think about it, there’s a lot of similarities between improv and the teams we work with: every day we face uncertainty about what we are going to have to deal with, we rely on the people around us to help us achieve success (and they rely on us), the team is stronger than the individual parts, etc. Paul Goddard’s new book draws on his love of improv to highlight the similarities and help us improve our ways of working through tapping into improv-style skills.

The book is structured into five logical sections:

  • Safety: how accepting failure is essential to discovery
  • Spontaneity: how to increase the flow of ideas
  • Storytelling: how narratives help teams relate to their customers and end users
  • Status: how adjusting personal behaviour can encourage collaboration
  • Sensitivity: how to become more fully engaged with fellow team members

Each chapter has a concise introduction followed by a digestible number of games (along with a smattering of general coaching pointers along the way). Although not all of the games are my style, this suggests that Goddard has catered for different preferences.

Some of my favourites, which I’ll definitely be trying, are:

  • Daily Tand-up and Psychic stand-up: teaching people that they are safe to fail
  • Collaborative drawing: working together to produce a product (pair drawing?)
  • Delight: learning how to deal with ‘blocks’ and how to counter with alternative ‘offers’
  • Story spines: structuring a good story (helpful for planning and retros)
  • The dinner party: showing how to identify status
  • Smelly, sexy, stupid: helping observation skills and spot status
  • Beep beep: how to hold the team’s attention
  • Dubbing: forcing people to pay attention to others in order to achieve success

In summary, the book is an interesting angle on our daily interactions, an easy read, and definitely one I recommend for scrum masters, delivery managers and coaches.

Improvisation became popular around the world with the success of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Improvisation became popular around the world with the success of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Improv-ing Agile Teams: Using Constraints To Unlock Creativity by Paul Goddard is available from Amazon for £11.99

Photo courtesy of Time Out.

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