By Marianne Rimbark
Transforming organizations to become Lean and Agile while maintaining high levels of performance within its teams requires a strong focus on people. After all, these high-performing teams are the ones that deliver change and growth.
I have been working at Ericsson for the last 26 years, a company that started up in a workshop in Stockholm in 1876 by Lars Magnus Ericsson and his wife Hilda. Little did they know that the company would grow to become a global entity with over 100,000 employees on several continents.
Ericsson has become the leading provider of mobile connectivity solutions to telecom operators and to enterprise customers, designed to help customers digitalize, increase efficiency, find new revenue streams and create new user experiences. Ericsson’s purpose is to create connections that make the unimaginable possible, enabled by a workforce that speaks almost every language across the globe.
Transforming an organization and having high-performing teams goes hand in hand. In my talk at the Agile and Scrum conference 2022, which is available on-demand through September 29, 2022, I have shared a story of transformation, implementing Lean and Agile values and principles into our operations. The transformation impacted more than 500 research and development teams at Ericsson’s Business Unit Networks.
I believe that to drive a successful transformation, you need to focus on these key areas: vision, leadership, people, management, skills & capabilities, communication, processes and tools. If you address all of these areas correctly, a successful transformation will happen. (Listen in to my presentation to learn more. On-demand access is available here through September 29, 2022.)
The first value in the Agile manifesto is individuals and interaction. For me that means collaboration, communication, listening and rephrasing, ‘This is how I interpret or heard what you said,’ and evolving, ‘Your idea gave me ideas‘ — all done with respect, trust, care and growth in mind.
An organization consists of people, organized into teams. In a transformation, the people are the ones that form a transformation team and get the change going in the organization. In a high-performing team, we set each other up to succeed, use humor and innovation to find solutions.
When I started at Ericsson, we worked according to the Waterfall framework, and later, according to the Agile Framework. No matter what framework we use, creating high-performing teams has always been a top priority of mine. Early on, I was introduced to a model of group development, created by American psychological researcher Bruce Tuckman in 1965, (see figure below). It is sometimes also called the forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development, after the four stages that Tuckman outlines for any group as it develops. It takes approximately 6-9 months from forming to high-performing, but there are ways to shorten that.
Group Development Model (Tuckman, 1965)
Here are the stages described in more detail.
- In the forming stage, team members learn about each other and the task at hand.
- After the forming stage, the storming stage begins. As team members continue to work, they will engage each other in arguments about the structure of the team and these arguments often get quite heated and are indicative of a struggle for status in the team.
- In the norming stage, team members establish implicit or explicit rules about how they will achieve their goal. They address the types of communication that will or will not help with the task.
- A team eventually reaches a conclusion and implements the solution to their issue – and they start high-performing.
Now, there are at times two additional steps to the process.
- Re-forming is where team members leave and/or join the team. The team might need to start over from the forming stage if many new team members join. Otherwise, it’s back to the storming stage.
- Adjourning and/or mourning is when the project or collaboration ends, and the team disbands.
In all these stages, I believe the Ericsson values are important:
- Cooperation and Collaboration
- Empathy and Humanness
- Execute Speedily
- Courageous and Fact-Based Decisions
- Speak-up Environment
- Diversity and Inclusion
Have you ever worked in a high-performing team? I can tell you, it is awesome! You get friends for life, and you get to laugh every day at work. Creating high-performing teams is a passion of mine, creating trust and enabling collaboration through learning and sharing with each other. Together, we are awesome and can achieve greatness.
Tips on Methods to Create High-Performing Teams
Kickoff: In the forming phase, start off the new team with a kick-off. A great agenda for the kick-off helps to create a common understanding around why the team exists, what the team will be doing and how it should work, who is in the team and any deadlines it faces. During a good kick-off, you also share knowledge about yourself and gain knowledge about your team members.
It is also great if you can talk about your culture and the values that are important to you in the team and document them as statements. Here are some examples: “We are punctual to our meetings,” “When we work, we focus on the tasks to be achieved,” and “We respect each other by listening and ask clarifying questions.” Enable a learning environment and have fun together.
Wellness Bingo: Confucius said, “A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only wants one.” The most important thing in life is health. Health is by WHO (World Health Organization) defined as: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” For me, health, well-being and providing genuine care is of utmost importance when working in a team. We tried out wellness bingo while working from home during COVID-19. Below you can see an example of a bingo card with activities.
Below you can see how the Wellness Bingo card might look at the end of the week. One of the boxes was to have a walk-and-talk meeting, and we could support each other to set up such a meeting. Search for “Wellness Bingo” on Google, and lots of examples will pop up.
Check-in exercise with faces: In the storming and norming phase, use emojis to do a check-in exercise. Have everyone pick two emojis to illustrate how they are feeling, walk around the table and get all the steam, concerns and small victories out in the open. Acknowledge all feelings and support each other.
Feedback: Do a web poll where you have everyone write positive feedback about the others in the team. Collect all the feedback and make a postcard with it for each team member. This whole process can be made much easier if you have a habit of regularly expressing feedback after meetings or work done. Doing it often helps to avoid the stress around feedback. Find out who complements you, and thank them.
Sprint reviews (demos) and retrospectives: Life is a journey and provides growth in different ways, often via feedback and continuous learning. Regular sprint reviews (demos) and retrospectives are an excellent way for your team to continuously learn together. My role model for personal development and lifelong learning is my grandfather Gustav. Born in 1910, he got his first computer when he was 89 years old. He lived 12 more years, and during that time, he drew our family tree in Excel, wrote significant parts of the family history in Word, kept in touch with us all via email and loved to receive photos.
Closing ceremony: In the adjourning/mourning stage, it is important to celebrate all the achievements, remember the challenges and fun you experienced together, and take a last photo together as a memento. Share what will happen in the future and what new assignments the different team members will take on next. Do you as a team want to continue to be in contact, have lunch together or meet for an after-work drink in a month? This is a good time to decide.
People are key to all successful transformations, and our people perform at their best when they are in a high-performing team. When transforming our organization to Agile we have not always managed to get high-performing teams, as some teams got stuck on their way. I cannot say my journey through the transformation has been easy, and my way of managing has been to lead with empathy and humanness in focus, and to show vulnerability. My motto is fail fast and learn, laugh, and dare to experiment again. And never, ever give up.
If you want to know more about the Lean and Agile transformation at Ericsson’s Business Unit Networks, impacting more than 500 cross-functional teams, our eight challenges and an evolved managing change model, you can listen in to my presentation at Agile & Scrum 2022, available on-demand through September 29, 2022. Learn more and register here.
If you have methods to boost transformation or to create high-performing teams, please share them with me on Marianne Rimbark 🇸🇪 | LinkedIn.
Improvement & Performance Manager
Marianne Rimbark has 25+ years of experience in the telecom industry, research and development (R&D). The foundation of her career is in software design and testing, and the excellence in those areas has lead Marianne on to different leadership positions, strategy execution, operational excellence and change management with focus on Lean and Agile values, principles and methods. She has lead many change programs focusing on improving efficiency and quality in a multi-site R&D organization spanning from 650- 10.000+ employees.