Whats In It For OthersLast Wednesday I was invited by AgileBill Krebs  to share my thoughts on the evolution of teams on Agile Witness News.  We discussed some of the evolving enterprise agile frameworks and the different types of teams being classified by these frameworks.  We also discussed what are still challenges in the enterprise space.  One challenge that I feel is critical to solve is “What’s in It For Others” (WIIFO).  In other words, where is the teams focus?

When I’m coaching a team or organization, I have a very specific goal in mind for the team.  It’s not hyper-productivity.  That’s the wrong goal.  It’s similar to saying I want my car to go fast.  You have to ask yourself why you want that?  Same question for your teams.  Why do you want them If you don’t answer it, you could end up taking the team nowhere fast … and burning them out in the process.

Instead, my goal is for the team to focus outside the team.  The team has to have a goal of serving someone (or some group) that is not part of the team.  This is typically why product teams exist.  I find it is the reason many teams exist.  Where the team may not seem productive is when they lose this focus on “other”.  Until they connect with the people they are serving, they will never reach their highest level of productivity.  Dan Pink might refer to this as “purpose” in his book Drive.

Without this focus on providing value to someone outside the team, the team will appear to go through the motions.  For an agile software team, even a product vision and a story map will not quite get them there if they don’t have empathy with who they are serving in delivering a product or service.  For the non-profit teams I work with, it’s the same challenge.  The events planned, the volunteers gathered, and the resources marshalled, will seem like a tremendous effort with an anti-climactic finish if they don’t keep in mind who they are serving and why they are serving.  They need to be aware of the need for service.  They need to ask “What’s In It For Others” (WIIFO) to have this team exist?

So my goal in coaching teams and organizations is not to get them hyper-productive.  My goal is to remind them of why they came together in the first place.  My goal is to remind them who they are serving.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Please let me know in the comments.

Again, I would like to thank AgileBill for the opportunity to share my thoughts.  For more on this concept, please see my other posts on Resonant Teams.