When working with people and teams I often encounter situations when people feel powerless to do stuff, and without getting deeply into the discussion of being powerful and what power actually is, I think that in many situations people have more power than they think they do.
One of the ways I use to help teams overcome this (usually wrong) feeling is to show them that they are powerful and have more influence than they imagine, I do this by using what I refer to as a "king for a day" retrospective.
It is a retrospective activity that is not focused specifically on the last sprint, but focuses on improvement in general.
King for a day retrospective
I start by describing an imaginary situation in which each of the team members will get the CEO seat for one day, and then I ask "What would be something that you would do if you were a CEO in order to improve?", the catch is that you only have one day to do that. I continue with something like "of course that as a CEO, you will need to consider different aspects of the improvement idea", and I draw a table on the white board with the following columns:
- Improvement idea.
- Benefit for the team.
- Benefit for the organization.
- Long term benefit.
- Short term benefit.
- Investment needed.
Now each team member takes some sticky notes and markers preferably sharpies (YOU DO NOT WRITE WITH PENS ON STICKY NOTES!) and ask them to take some time and think about what would they do, and for each idea they have they should fill as many columns as they can.
While they think about the improvement ideas, I pull out my iPhone and play the song "When you are a king" by White Plains (Do that as well & expect a nice laugh :)
Once they are done (Usually I need to find another song since they need more time), each team members explain his\her items on the board, and to many people's surprise the items on the board are often very achievable by the team members themselves. What often happens is that during the explanation other team members say stuff like "But you do not need to be a CEO for that…" which reinforces the fact that the team is actually more powerful than they think they are.
A second option that often occurs is that the columns that they have filled provides the team the right type of "ammunition" (information) to try and persuade their manager to support the improvement idea, this is important because in many situations that I see, teams fail to properly communicate their ideas in a manner that will be understandable by management.
To wrap up the activity I let the team pick the items that they want to take on for the next sprint.
In my experience this type of activity has a wonderful effect on people & teams, it helps them understand that they can do more than they might think, and of course it helps them improve by executing the improvement ideas.
May the force be with you.