Mar 082010

Edit: This should properly be titled “Dispersion and Implosion in Teams.” See Tobias’ comment.

Exercise at ScrumGathering 2010: how simple internal models (“rules”) can have very different effects on team behavior.

In the first situation, each person has to use their “best friend” to protect themselves from their own “worst enemy.” (In this case, you “protect” yourself by moving so that your “friend” is between you and your “enemy.”)

Notice how the group fragments and disperses.

In the second situation, there’s one little change: each person has to protect their “friend” from their “enemy.”

Bit of a difference! The overall behavior is toward cohesion.

P.S. “Kids, don’t try this at home!” This exercise works because the participants agree to the rules. It does NOT imply that you can simply give people rules to follow and expect to get the desired behavior. Why not? Because people aren’t machines, that’s why not! :) The art of the team is, of course, in coaching and coaxing the teams such that the individuals experience a shift in their own “internal rules.”

Best Friend Worst Enemy

 Posted by at 1:30 pm

  4 Responses to “Coherence and Dispersion in Teams”

  1. […] friend, worst enemy” game, and how working to protect yourself results in team fragmentation (posted previously) – […]

  2. I don’t agree that the second part of this exercise is towards cohesion. It /appears/ to be that way but what is actually happening is an implosion, and a situation is created where no one can actually move anymore. It is stifling. When I observe this it reminds me of teams where the ScrumMaster is so zealous about “protecting the team” that s/he doesn’t allow the the team any space to grow. Teams that spend too much time protecting each other tend to isolate those outside the team. We have all seen this: “we do Scrum now so we don’t write documents”, or “we do Scrum now so you (manager) can’t tell us what to do”. Such behaviour is exclusive and doesn’t go towards building a collaborative environment.

    The first part of this exercise is about running and hiding. Not taking any responsibility. The second part of this exercise is about taking too much responsibility — for /other people/. Neither demonstrates the value of taking responsibility for ones own actions and trusting others to do the same.

    Cool that you all captured this on video though :-)

  3. Hi Tobias!

    At SGUS, a friend apologized to me for so often “correcting the words I use when I say something,” to which I replied that I actually appreciate it when he does that. I think with such a high degree of association that when I try to express a concept in my head, it almost always comes out imprecise, and thus requires interaction with another person in order to get the concept refined to its essence.

    So, thank you, Tobias, for appropriately refining my post. :)

    Yes, implosion is EXACTLY what is happening here! And I think it looked good to me initially because I tend to be strongly biased against fragmentation. But it makes sense that EITHER focus (on defending against others, or protecting others) is a focus on OTHERS, and not on the self, and thus leads to an unbalanced system.

  4. […] Derek Wade notes in his blog post on this, we shouldn’t take this exercises to mean that you can simply dish out rules and expect […]

Your thoughts?