Using Containers for motivating team values

This post describes a retrospective exercise we did, where we looked at Containers in the team in order to motivate the work with team values.

Exploring Containers in the team

The facilitator (that would be me) prepared the exercise by drawing all team members on a whiteboard with a face and name for each team member. Meeting started with a briefing about the concept of Containers and CDE. Then we collaboratively searched for containers in the team. As example, we thought that all developers in the team made a container, so we drew a circle around all developers, and so on. After some hesitations and confusions, small things started to happen. We got a few good talks about the effects of containers within the group, preventing cooperation and more.

Finding values needed for a team

After containers got on board, we put a circle up in red around whole team. The follow-up question to this was “What kind of values are in common for the whole?” Results for this was not very easy to produce, but with some supportive suggestions from facilitator we came up with a handful.

Containers team values

You might recognize the team values from Jutta Eckstein and her book Agile software development in distributive teams. The resulting values was like a mix of general values, like “Core Values” (yes we are going meta-meta here) and more concrete objectives, like “money”. Some were removed and some were clarified. We validated the values by talking about what could happen when the value is not present. As example: without a common goal we will have a really hard time in making successful changes. A metaphor used to illustrate this was the drug dealer story from Deana Meadows’ “Resistance to change”. The visualization of containers started to make more sense at this point.

Evaluating team values in our team

Next exercise was a team radar on the team values. We had to put in a 5 minutes break for facilitator to prepare the spider. So, after the short coffee break everyone got up on their feet to put a dot in the radar. 


Containers spider edited


Remaining time of exercise was spent on talking about the graph outcome. These open talks took 45 minutes and was really focused. Really good stuff happened here. I sensed a state of mindfulness in the room and… well… I felt like the people in the room committed to the task in a joint focus, as a single entity. 
You can see the resulting action points in the team radar. However, I believe that most of all we gained insights in how we functioned as a team, and we gained an understanding on why we need to get better!




If you want to read more about CDE model, you can look here. I can also highly recommend the workshop Coaching beyond the team where you get to learn and practice using the CDE model (and lots of other stuff as well).

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