4 steps your team must walk to reach high performance

No team is the same, no person is the same. If you are, or have ever been in a leadership position before, you know that most challenges are unique and cannot be replicated. But that doesn’t mean we cannot see patterns.

Humans are amazing creatures in finding patterns. Sometimes we are so good at it that we see information where it doesn’t exist. Like when we see faces in clouds or other objects. But this is not one of those cases.

Every team goes on this 4 step journey to become a high performing team. We, as leaders, should know at which step our team is so that we can help them reach the next one. So here it goes, the 4 steps your team must walk to reach high performance.

#1 Step – Forming

Blue, Green, Orange and Red Rainbow Design Decoration
Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

This is the 1st ever step your team will walk. In this phase, the team members don’t know each other and don’t know their strengths and weaknesses. There is no trust, they have never met before. There is very little agreement between everyone. No one knows exactly what their mission is and what to do. We miss a sense of purpose.

In this step, the team relies heavily on the leaders’ guidance and direction.

#2 Step – Storming

Lightning Photo
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Like any human, after you start knowing someone you start distrusting them. Are they like this? Are they trying to go after my job?

The team members start hoarding their knowledge because they have no trust in their teammate’s abilities. Power struggles are constant, personalities clash with each other. Team members can start forming groups within the team. We can even say that teams start forming within the team.

A good outcome of this step is the sense of purpose. The team, while storming, starts finding its way.

In this step, the team will rely heavily on coaching. We as leaders need to help the team get over this slump.

#3 Step – Norming

3D stock digital wallpaper

Blue skies are starting to appear. Nothing brings people together more than a good fighting phase.

At this time, the team will start collaborating. The previous smaller teams unite into the full team. Things like team agreements start appearing. Consensus becomes the norm, not to say everyone will agree but they will compromise. The team’s internal roles and responsibilities are clear and everyone knows exactly how to contribute to the team’s mission.

In this step, the team needs help on the facilitation front. Here, as a leader, your goal is to help the team perform by helping them understand what is keeping them back. What they can do to move better and faster. What the team is doing that shouldn’t be doing.

#4 Step – Performing

Close Up of Electric Lamp Against Black Background
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Oh performing. It’s a step that rarely happens. Let me tell you now. It may take years to arrive at this step.

Here, the team is in full synergy. They auto-organize. They are fully autonomous and feel accountable for what they deliver. The team will start producing knowledge on their own, that they will share with other teams and help them grow.

When your team starts performing, there is a clear vision. A clear purpose for coming to work every day. The focus becomes the goal. What we are here to create, not how much we create.

In this step, your job as a leader is to delegate. You and your team have reached the top of the mountain. The peak of Everest. Now your job is to keep inspecting and adapting to make sure we stay here.



Certified or not certified, that is the question.

On my Facebook travels between agile groups, I have found an interesting discussion that got me thinking.

What are your thoughts about certification vs experience?

comment on Facebook

This is a super interesting question. My first reaction was experience, but then certification. After another minute of thinking, experience. In the end, I entered a rabbit hole, so I thought. It’s best to put this in writing and gather my thoughts.

Years of Experience

I have been a Scrum Master/Coach for a couple of years, does that mean I have experience?

In the military, service time equates to experience. In a leadership role, I am not that sure.

Part of being a Scrum Master/Coach in a growing company is that you end up doing SM interviews. You get presented to all sorts of CV’s, ranging from people that did Scrum even before Jeff Sutherland and Ken Swabber, to others with just a couple of years. So the question is always, does 18yrs as an SM equate to being an awesome SM?

Well, yeah. No. I don’t believe that. It doesn’t mean anything at all. You could have been doing waterfall project management since the ’70s, that doesn’t make you a good project manager.

Proven Experience

Person Curving Wood
Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

Although years of experience mean nothing. Proven experience means everything. Let me explain.

You have someone in your interview process and you are talking about estimation. One SM has 10 years of experience, the other has 2. This is the question.

How do you estimate the work you have to do and communicate deadlines?

We do Story Points. The teams use the Fibonacci sequence and we have standardized across all teams that 8 SP’s is the max for a developer per sprint. Then we sum up the epic, divide by 8 and that gives us the amount of sprints.

10 years Scrum Master

We use Story Points. The PO explains the item and if it is clear the team votes on the effort using the Fibonacci sequence, we have some reference stories from prev. sprints that we use as a guideline. After all, that is estimated we use yesterday’s weather to try and predict how many sprints it will take. We keep on and adapting our estimation depending on the new sprint velocity and if there are any required changes. As a team, we always give a confidence level to our “amount of sprints” estimation.

2 years Scrum Master


Person Holding Diploma
Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

Is certification important? I have to say yes, but not for the reasons that you may think. I consider certification important for you and me, not for our CV.

For me, certification is a standard. It allows me to understand if the knowledge I acquired is correct or not against what the community thinks. It makes it more objective instead of subjective, meaning, if I get a PSM II, I am confident that according to the scrum.org standards, my knowledge is at that level. If I fail the PSM II, like I did my first time around, I know that my knowledge was not enough. And that was correct. I made a goal to study more and learn more about agile leadership and being an SM.

In the end, the certification helped me understand where my limitations were. Saying this, certification is not everything. Like Jeff Sutherland said to a couple of colleagues of mine during their SM training.

Being certified is like taking your license. It means you can drive, doesn’t mean you are good at it.



7 Lean wastes that you need to avoid at all cost

We often think that we waste our time because of small things. Like getting a coffee or having a bigger lunch. But the reality is that the work we do is filled with time wasters that cost us more time than any break that we take.

If we are not able to identify and mitigate them, we are doomed to never get rid of them.

The initial 7 lean waste came from the Toyota Production System, and were applied to lean manufacturing. In a sentence, to factories. But over the years it has evolved. It evolved in a way that we were able to map them to our industry of software development.

This is a summary of the 7 lean wastes.

#1 Task-Switching

Man Connection Utp Cables on Switch Hub Inside Room

We waste time when task or context switching because of something called the psychological refractory period.

Without entering into much science, it means that whenever we need to stop what we are doing and move to something else, our brain needs to adapt. That adaptation is not free, it takes processing power and that in the end is time. It can cost you up to 40% when task-switching.

And if you are thinking. NO, I can multitask without wasting time. Then, my friend, you are a lucky one and part of a very exclusive group. Only 2% of the population is good at that, so, congrats.

Read the full article here

#2 Partially Done Work

Newly Make High Rise Building

Yesterday I was having a chat with one of my teammates and he mentioned the analogy I used for this one. I think it is the best way to explain partially done work.

One person is peeling an apple with a knife, and another person is peeling a potato with a potato peeler. Who is the fastest?

You may say the potato person is the faster right? He/she has the right tool. And we all know that if we use the right tool for the job we become more productive.

But the devil is in the details. The outcome in both cases is very different. One gives you an edible product that you can use right away, the other will still need extra steps to be completed, like seasoning and cooking. Unless you like raw potatoes, then this is completely different.

If you think about it, when you leave partially done work on the table, you are also task switching. One waste feeds into the other.

Read the full article here

#3 Delays

Person Wearing Round White Analog Watch at 10:09

Why do we leave partially done work on the table? Most of the time, not all of the time, but most of the time this is due to delays. If you need to start tackling any waste, I would suggest going for this one first. Why? Because it bleeds into two of the other lean wastes.

Delays cause work to be unfinished (partially done work), so we need to move our focus to something else (task-switching). This is why communication is important, proper planning so that we don’t get held up with delays.

Plans are nothing; planning is everything.

 Dwight D. Eisenhower

As President Eisenhower said, planning is important, but don’t get held up on the plan either. We need to malleable. We need to have the agility to adapt to what comes ahead.

If you want to fix one and only one of the lean wastes, as I said before, try and fix this one.

Read the full article here

4# Hand-Offs

Pile of Folders

I love this quote.

Code is like a good joke, if you have to explain it, you are doing it wrong.

Ok, I understand it is not as simple as that, but it makes a point. If your code does not speak for itself, then we need to do a hand-off, right? And hand-offs take time. They need to be documented (extra work). Meetings need to be setup (task-switching).

Another quote that I love is:

The best communication is no communication

If what you have is so clear that you don’t need to explain it, then there is no need to hand-off. We can save time by making everything visible that can be visible.

And remember, hand-offs only work, because we assume no information will be lost during the hand-off. If you ask me, this is a real risk assumption.

Read the full article here

#5 Extra Work

Person in Blue Shirt Wearing Brown Beanie Writing on White Dry Erase Board

If you do waterfall software development, there is a high chance you are doing extra work. Why? In one word, Feedback loop.

Extra work occurs when you don’t know that you did everything that needed to be done. As simple as that.

80% of the value comes from 20% of the features

We all know this. Just look at the options bar on Microsoft Word. How many of those features do you use? Now think about how many other pieces of software you have that contain features that you never use. If most people don’t use it, why did we spend time building it?

Well, the answer is simple. Delays in the feedback loop. We kept on doing things without asking “If we deliver now, do you have everything you need? Or do you want to spend more of your money developing these extra things?”

Read the full article here

#6 Defects

Black Claw Hammer on Brown Wooden Plank

Oh, the dreaded defects. Bugs. Incidents. Status pages and on-call support.

One thing we can all agree on, and if we cannot, we should, is that bugs are part of any software. So why are they a problem? Simple, they cost time to fix. Not just the time to fix, but also the time they were in production messing something else without being found.

We can never get rid of all the bugs, but that doesn’t mean we should not try and mitigate them. There are several ways we can do this.

We need to have automated testing and continuous delivery to prevent errors that we already know. We should have on-call support, triage phase, and an internal service desk to deal with new bugs that escape our process.

Just because we cannot live without them, doesn’t mean we need to accept them. Especially if we have already dealt with them. Which segways right into the last lean waste.

Read the full article here

#7 Relearning

Person Behind Books

Nothing is more frustrating than having to learn what you already learned before. Imagine that today you completely forget the ABC and have to learn it all over again. How long do you think it will take you?

In reality, it doesn’t matter how long, it is already a waste. Why did you forget it in the first place? This is the real question that causes re-learning.

How much did civilization lose, when the great library of Alexandria burned to the ground?

Usually, there are deeper underlying causes than just forgetting. For example, hand-offs. There is a high chance something will be lost in translation. Information lost is information that needs to be gathered again, meaning, re-learned.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it

The agile manifesto puts a good emphasis on “working software over comprehensive documentation” and I couldn’t agree more. Pay close attention, it says over, not instead. Proper documentation will save you time if you ever have to re-learn something.

Read the full article here



3 top traits to be the best servant leader

Scrum Masters are thought to be servant leaders. But what does that mean exactly?

Servant leadership is, as the name implies, the act of serving in a position of leadership. Cool, post written. See you tomorrow…
OK, Ok, let us dig in a bit more. What are the top 3 traits that make a good servant leader?

#1 – Collaborative

Grayscale Photo of Firemen
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A servant leader brings everyone into the discussion table to share their opinion. Decisions are made by the whole team and weighted for pros and cons.

This does not mean that a servant leader does not make any decision. In the case that there is no consensus in the team, the leader should help make the decision and guarantee the team is not stuck.

#2 – Result Oriented

Grayscale Photography of a Fireman Holding a Hose
Photo by Denniz Futalan from Pexels

A servant leader and a good leader by any means is oriented to results. The team’s performance should be measured by their outcome, not their output. Metrics like how many hours you worked or how many tickets you closed are irrelevant for the big picture.

Working software is the only measure of progress


#3 – Coach

Fireman Holding Fire Hose
Photo by Tim Eiden from Pexels

The servant leader is a coach.
His/hers main role should be to coach the team into not needing him anymore. If that is your focus, you will give your team the tools to succeed even in your absence.

Like a good coach, the servant leader should be aware of the team’s limitations and how to compensate them. This could be by bringing other knowledgeable people into the team or organizing workshops, knowledge sessions, and training.

What do you think?

Are there any other top traits you think make a good leader? Let me know in the comments or via any of the social platforms.



5 things that will make you a better leader

Leadership is not bossing someone around, it is deeper than that. Leaders go first and eat last. Leaders open the path ahead instead of pushing them towards the unknown. Leaders are leaders because their peers follow them, not because someone put them there.

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Orange and and Brown Chess Pieces

Ordering someone to do something is easy. Leading them to the right path is hard. But don’t worry. There are 5 things that if you start doing today your path to leadership will be much better.

Value other opinions

A leader knows he/she cannot do it all alone and he/she does not have the answer to every question. A good leader regularly seeks guidance from the team, because he/she knows that they are the experts.

Being a leader is not about pushing your ideas. You should be open to being wrong, and to be honest, you should crave to be wrong. Otherwise, how would you learn new things?

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do…

Steve Jobs

Develop leadership in others

Man Kneeling on Baseball Field Beside Man
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A good leader makes his/hers job not needed. At least, I like to think like that. My goal as a coach is to make my team not need me anymore and train others to take my place. If I can do that, I consider it successful.

As leaders, we need to provide to others the opportunities to grow. Coach them. Give them the tools. And after some time, let them lead the way.

Focus on WE instead of I

There is no I in team, right?

That is an old saying and very true. Good leaders are part of the team, not above, below or to the side of it.

Every decision you make as a leader should focus on the growth of the team, not advancing your own agenda.

Act with humility

Leadership is not a title. A good leader doesn’t think he/she is better than everyone else, instead, he/she is a team player. A good leader doesn’t show he/she is in charge of the team decision, instead, he/she coaches the team into making those decisions.

Be a servant to the team

Selective Focus Photography of Four Pawn Chess Pieces
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A good leader is a servant leader.

The focus is on the team becoming better, not by bossing them around, but by coaching them. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Lead by example, not by force.



A quick summary of what I posted this past week

Welcome to the end of 2019 week 45. This week we continued with the focus on time wasters, mainly the lean wastes. Things that we do everyday without even noticing that take our time away from other more important tasks.
Here is a quick summary of what happened.

📅 Monday: Why you need to eliminate hand-offs to be more effective

LEAN WASTE #4 : Hand-Offs are just a waste of time

I need you to create a functional document, then I will read it, create my technical document and give it to someone else. Sounds familiar?


📅 Tuesday: The most important metric you need to track

LEAN WASTE #5 : Delays are killing your productivity

For today, the focus is Delays. This is the most important metric you should be tracking because it impacts everything else.


📅 Wednesday: Why you need to stop obsessing about working hours

Working hours and hours worked are 2 different concepts

It feels a bit strange that in 2019 we are still talking about working hours and how different they are from hours worked


📅 Thursday: These are the 3 ways bugs are destroying your output

LEAN WASTE #6 : Bugs / Defects

Bugs are part of life and part of any code, but they cost time to resolve. They cause extra work on the part of the development team, usually at bad times, causing unnecessary stress.


📅 Friday: Relearning might look like a good thing, but it’s not

LEAN WASTE #7 : Relearning. Learning is good, relearning is bad

If learning is good, why is re-learning a waste?

How much did civilization lose, when the great library of Alexandria burned to the ground?


💡 Saturday: A couple of “learnings” from this past week

A retrospective of the week that passed and what I’ve learned from it.

This past week was an intense one at work, but also a lot of fun. I had a couple of agile friends visiting from Poland, a workshop to facilitate for more than 50 people. Loads of fun, loads of work, happy that it is done 😄




A couple of “learnings” from this past week

Hey there everyone, how are you?

This past week was an intense one at work, but also a lot of fun. I had a couple of agile friends visiting from Poland, a workshop to facilitate for more than 50 people. Loads of fun, loads of work, happy that it is done 😄

Yellow Plush Toy

So without further ado, where are a couple of things that helped me this past week.

👍 Planning my posts in advance. I knew this week was going to be chaotic in the workplace, and the only way for me to keep my daily posting routine was to plan it in advance. So, last Sunday I prepared this theme of lean waste and scheduled all the posts so that I would not miss a day.

👍👍 On the last 3-point Saturday I talked about Notion, and how the tool helped me become more productive and organized on my blogging. It is really a time saver, and also helps me keep track of the upcoming Podcast. Imagine Trello meets todoist. If you haven’t already, check out Notion.

Also, join the 3-point Saturday newsletter so that you don’t miss these exclusive gems 😀, the next one will be out today. JOIN HERE.

👍👍👍 Youtube’s free music library. Working on getting the podcast out, one of the things I have been working on is the Intro. I don’t want to have to worry about copyright holders or any other legal problems. A quick internet search and I found out that Youtube has a lot of free music, some require attribution, others don’t. Definitely a lifesaver.

And that is pretty much it. Hope you also had an amazing week, and see you again in the next post.