Team Introspection

I recently facilitated a session for my team at our quarterly team gathering to introspect about who they are as a team and how they are working together. We’ve done this session during a transition phase where one team member was about to leave while a new team member just joined the team. Both were present in the room.

I chose the following two questions from the Barefoot Coaching cards for teams:


I really like these questions as they invite the team members to take a step back and look at the team from the outside. It puts them in the perspective of a person observing the team. This turned out to be very powerful. Here’s how I facilitated the session:


Over the past few years, my team has created quite a few artifacts such as working agreements, DoD, vision/mission statement, team goals and values, to name a few. The “problem” is that these artifacts are somewhere buried on a wiki page as we are a  distributed team. So I took some time to write all of the artifacts on flipcharts and hung them up on the walls around the room.


Setting the Stage

I gave the team 5-10 minutes to walk the walls and read the artifacts. I asked them if they see anything surprising.
As expected, they didn’t really read the wiki pages lately so we had quite a few “Aha’s” 🙂

Gathering Data

I put each of the above questions on separate flipcharts and let the team members individually write down answers on post-its in silent brainstorming. One answer per post-it. I challenged them to come up with at least 5 different answers per question to get them thinking beyond the obvious things on top of their mind.
After the silent brainstorming, team members shared their answers by taking turns, putting them on the flipchart and quickly summarize what they have written. Similar answers were clustered on the fly while adding them to the flipchart.


Generating Insights

We looked at each question separately and had a facilitated discussion about the answers on the flipcharts. I guided the discussion with questions such as:

  • What do you notice?
  • What stands out?
  • What is surprising?

We started with “What would they admire about the way the team functions“. It’s a nice way to celebrate and acknowledge the good things happening in the team. The answers were all quite similar and easy to cluster. It showed that all admire and value the same things such as the openness, trust, collaboration, and self-organization happening within the team.

What would they want to be different” showed another picture. There were a lot of different answers, not so easy to cluster. But after having a focused discussion it became apparent that most of the answers represented the Five Time Thieves as explained by Dominica DeGrandis in her book “Making Work Visible“:

  • Too much Work in Progress (WIP)
  • Conflicting Priorities
  • Unknown Dependencies
  • Unplanned Work
  • Neglected Work

I briefly explained the characteristics of the five thieves, their relationship between them and what to do against each of them.

Decide What to Do

The team decided to create an experiment with Work in Progress limits to improve their situation. The hypothesis is, that by limiting the number of items in progress, the team will have more focus and is getting stuff done more quickly. The experiment will last for 2 sprints and after that, we will compare the average cycle time before and during the experiment.

There was no official closing of the introspection. We just did a short break and moved on to define the teams’ work in progress limit. How to best do that? I will write about it in a separate blog post.