Nice to meet you!

"As soon as I saw you, I knew adventure was going to happen." (Winnie the Pooh)

There was not a sound to be heard in the teamroom of the Giants. Just moments before, Lucas, the team's manager, had popped in and told the team that budget had been green-lighted to hire an additional team member. The team had high-fived each other and celebrated, because this had been their longtime wish. When Francesco had asked Lucas what the onboarding would look like, Lucas had smiled and told the team that they were supposed to figure that out for themselves. "Just tell me what you need from me", he had said, and then he had turned around and was gone. "Let's just give the new guy a workstation and we'll start collaborating. How hard can it be?" proposed Lucy. "Ehm, we need to think this through a bit more than that...", Francesco told her. He then drew the Tuckman Model on the Whiteboard. "They told me in Scrum Master training that anytime something changes in the team, the team will need to reinvent itself".

So you have a new team member that will be joining you soon, or are in the process of onboarding one as we speak? Congratulations! However, you should be aware of the Tuckman Model (wikipedia is a good starting point) that our Scrum Master just started to describe. Adding a new member to the team will set the team back. Even if only for a short while, your team will need to learn about this new team member, and figure out how he fits into the existing team. Meanwhile, your new colleague will get to meet the team and learn to know your way of working together. Many times, new team members will have previous experience that will lead them to challenge some parts of the process the team has established. The conflict that results from this challenge should be allowed to happen, because it will strengthen the team and most likely improve the process.

Getting to know each other will need to happen at two levels: we have to create a common understanding of how we work together, and we have a basic need to form an emotional bond with our closest colleagues (so we can then trust them). There are numerous activities that we can do to form this bond. I wouldn't recommend the Trust Fall (because of the dangers involved), but games like Two Truths and One Lie, Lifeline and Skill Marketplace are all safe games that can help your team kickstart their relationship (I've added a list of activities after the post to help you get started). Of course any team activity that ends with a beer will also be helpful!

"Ok", Francesco said, looking at the whiteboard. "Now that we have decided on these two activities to get to know our new colleague, we need to figure out how to kickstart his first week". "Well, we've got the user manual and our confluence site.", offered Rebecca, "that should keep him occupied for the first couple of days." "You want him to quit before his trial period is over?", asked Lucy, "How about we set him up with a workstation and pair him with one of us?". "How about we do both?", Rebecca smiled. "Yeah! And we should also get him a team mug!".

The first couple of weeks will probably be a bit stressful for a newcomer, but by preparing for it, your team can make his stay more pleasant from the start. A new team member will need to have a laptop or pc available for him from the start, along with any accounts and access rights that are needed (the team will know which these are!). I have had to cope without a pc on my first days at two different firms (one of them actually managed to make me wait nearly 2 months), and have first hand experience how annoying that is. In addition, it is a good idea to introduce your new colleague to everyone that is of importance to the team. Just accompany him and let him shake hands with colleagues from other teams, the marketing guru, the secretaries and the UX wizard. Then, make him weigh in. Sure, access to confluence or any other documentation you have is important, but do you really want your new team mate to pine away reading heaps of documentation?

Add the new guy to the skill matrix, if you have one. Pair them up with one of the other developers, and let them develop. Allow them to start of as a observer in Dailies, Plannings and Refinements, but get them to participate as soon as you can. We want him to contribute, don't we? Take away their '?'-card if they don't trust themselves in Planning Poker. Hand them the marker during the 2nd phase of planning to start the discussion about how to deliver a user story. Ask for his opinion if it isn't freely given.

In many companies, newcomers are paired up with a mentor that will help them settle in their first months. This makes sense, especially in bigger companies. In addition, onboarding can be gamified with an onboarding wall. And if you really want to bring a smile to his face, a little welcome present will go a long way.

Games

Below is a list of games that can be used to get to know each other (better). For all games, it is very important that the leader goes first. This means that if we ask the team to open up, the Scrum Master, Team Leader or Coach goes first. We do not ask anyone to share private details until we have shown that we are willing to do so ourselves, and even then we respect a 'no' when someone feels uncomfortable to share.

2 Truths and a Lie

Every team member thinks of three stories about himself. Two of those are true, one of them didn't happen. The more outrageous the three stories are, the more fun the team has. For example: "I have two siblings, and we were all born in different countries", "As a child I got seperated from my parents at IKEA. They found me 1 ½ hours later, asleep in one of the children's beds", "I completed the four day marches, walking 50 km each day". The stories are read (preferably by a game moderator) aloud, and the other team members get to guess which one is the lie. Score can be kept with chocolate coins for each correct answer. Of course, this game requires some preparation by each participant. See more here.

Lifeline

Every team member gets a piece of (flip-chart) paper and some markers. They then draw their (professional) lifeline. Positive periods or events are mountains, negative ones are valleys. After drawing their lifeline, the team gather at each lifeline, where the owner presents that lifeline. Detail level is decided by each individual participant (you only give as much detail as you feel comfortable with). See more here.

I believe I am the only one who…

Team members share an amazing thing they have done (or an exciting thing about them) that they believe does not hold true for any of the others. These stories are shared one after the other, and we all share whether the storyteller was right. Examples: participated in an Iron Man, having skydived or bungee jumped, having 5 siblings, having an 15 cm scar. This activity works best if the team can have an informal chat afterwards (ie. before a beer, before lunch, before a coffee break).

Skill Marketplace

Each individual receives a piece of (flip-chart) paper and some markers. The goal is to draw a market stall that 'sells' us to the team. On the counter we write all skills that we have and contribute to the team's goal. Below the counter we write all additional skills that we have but might not be needed in this particular team or time. In addition, you could add the things that you want to learn while in the team to the top of your stall. We then present our own market stall. If the team has been together for a while, it might be beneficial to allow team members to add skills to stalls of their coworkers if they believe someone has forgotten a skill. See this site for an example.

Personal History

Prepare some fairly low-risk questions that each team member will have to answer. Question could be about the first job, hometown, siblings, worst job, childhood hobbies, etc.

World Map

This activity works well with groups that consist of many different nationalities. Pin/draw a large world map on the wall. Have all team members mark their place of birth and places of residence (each person receives a different color). In addition, you can ask each team member to describe their favorite childhood food or the most foolish stunt they pulled as a child.

Behavioural Preference Profile

This activity takes quite a bit of preparation time. There are many behavioural profiles that the team can fill out. Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode or the DiSC model can be used to start a discussion in the team about personal differences.

Team Constellation

Place an object (ball, team mug) in the center of an empty space. Then read the team a statement ("I like to work in a team", "I consider myself to be a junior", "I am open to change"). Each team member will assesses how true this statement is for them. If this statement is very true for them, they will place themselves close to the center, if it doesn't ring true, they will create a distance between them and the center. After each statement the team is invited to take note how their team mates are spread out across the room. More examples can be found on Lyssa Adkins website.

26 Sep

Summit 2017

By Camilla Franek

Thursday morning we started our journey and arrived at our hotel at approx. 12:00. After a short breather we formed teams and started with our first program: Treasure Hunt through Bratislava. After the two-hour treasure hunt the teams met to have a few drinks and to celebrate the winner at the "Beer Palace", where we laid the foundation for a great evening ...


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