Trust-spective: how to discuss trust with your teams

As an Agile Coach I get a lot of questions from project managers, team leaders and scrum masters how to start a conversation with an agile team about trust. It is not a secret, trust is a hard topic. In my point of view, the best place where we might discuss different tough topics with an agile team is the team retrospective.

Today I’m going to share with you 3 instruments which can help you to organize “Trust-spective” – the retrospective meeting where you can discuss team trust.

Anti-pattern cards

The first instrument which I would like to present is a trust anti-pattern deck. This deck presents a short set of different factors which may influence and destroy trust. How I formed this set you can read here (link). 
One of the practical applications of these cards might be discussion and exploration main challenges which the team faced in the past or may face in the future.
How to organize a trust anti-patterns activity:
  1. You can create your own list of anti-patterns or download our list as  an example
  2. Pass the deck to the team.
  3. Ask them to find and define at least 3 main challenges which they have already encountered. (If you decide to explore expected problems you will focus them on the future)
  4. Give them time to discuss it. Try to find a consensus on the priorities
  5. The next step is important. Together you should generate assumptions what you (as a team + a manager) would do in order to reduce the impact on this problem. Strive to define concrete actions. The good practice may be visualization of these actions.
  6. Come back to consideration in the next retro in order to check your results.

Boost-Trust Cards

The idea to create an opposite «positive» view on the trust cards I got from Martina Georgievova. The point was to enable a positive team atmosphere and identify things which can improve team trust. You might utilize the next list as an example:
  1. We can rely on each others words
  2. Talk the walk is consistent
  3. I believe in good will of others
  4. If necessary, we offer help without request
  5. Clear communication
  6. ….
How to organize a boost-trust activity. You may use the algorithm from the previous part. The main distinction is that we try to focus on factors which would improve team trust. Therefore we have to make an effort to identify the most essential factors and generate some actions which will gain it.

Team trust canvas

The last instrument which you might consider when you are preparing a trust retrospective is the Team Trust Canvas.  Below I will tell you how I made use of this instrument for the retro with my remote team.
Team TC
  1. During the last sprint I identified that the team with which I worked as a coach faced a set of issues with trust. I decided to devote the next retro to team trust.
  2. Before the meeting I prepared a jira page where I put the Trust Canvas and short description (see the pic).
  3. During the retro we decided which areas are most important for us and what we should do as a team in order to improve it. 
  4. We generated a list of action items which we were going to apply.
  5. The last step. We dealt with when and how we will check our results.
Trust is essential point for the agile team work. Working as agile coach I make an effort to find practical tools which would help us to start a conversation or at least to visualize trust challenges. If you have own approaches or examples how to handle trust issues, please, let me know.


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