Saturday, January 24, 2009

The emotional wall

One of the key things a project manager has to do in a team is listen. Listen to people's aspirations, frustrations and expectations. Over a period of time a PM has a mental model of his team which could almost be like a matrix below

Avishek - Sad
Apoorv - Could not be Happier
Rohini - Just about ok

A lot of times a PM has to make decisions considering the above mental model, which is equivalent to keeping the teams emotional state in mind. A good PM will do well in making
these decisions, but then the mental model is still in the PM's mind and not really with the team.

And if the team strives towards self organizing itself, this poses a roadblock. We conducted a simple experiment to solve this wherein we created a wall of peoples names, and asked everyone to stick one Post-It sticky. The stickies were of 3 colors Red - Sad, Orange - Indifferent, Green - Happy.

Now , if a team member sticks an orange or a Red sticky,she also writes the reason for it on the sticky itself. (As long as the reason can be shared with the team). The idea was to update this wall whenever we felt like and see how long it lives.We just called it, the emotional wall !

Slowly I saw the team questioning each other on the color of their post-it. Karthik had a red sticky because he was working on bugs all the time. This made Kiran , who was working on a story to volunteer to fix bugs so that Karthik could be a bit more happier. There were lot of similar instances and it was fun to watch the team take interest in how their coworkers are feeling, and trying to solve the problems within themselves. Yet another experiment in self organizing.

1 comment:

  1. I've also included this in stand-ups in the past - again three states, indicated by thumb up (yay!), thumb down (grr or sad) and thumb level (meh...).

    Several different ways to implement this ... a few listed below:
    - you can do this at the start of stand-up or at the end (i think it's a nice way to finish up)
    - you can capture up / down / level on some kind of radiator (like the emotion wall mentioned before) and monitor it ongoing ... use this to trigger the kind of questioning that Anand mentioned
    - as part of stand-up, add in an extra 'why i was thumbs up / down / level' as one of the items that we talk to

    As a PM, it's also a great way to identify risks early - we tend to 'feel' something before we 'know' something ... a feeling of ickyness or indifference can often be a great risk or issue signpost.