We had the opportunity to help kick off the school year for a group of students at Hungary Creek Middle School in Henrico County by teaching them Scrum. We used the first day of school as an opportunity to have the kids work in self-organizing teams. It turns out that 6th graders know exactly what great teamwork looks like and they can teach us a a few lessons!
Jason Vest has been doing some amazing work at Hungary Creek. He has been fusing together design thinking, entrepreneurship, and agile to change the way education is delivered. He is clearly inspiring kids along the way. Jason was recently recognized by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) as the Personalized Teacher of the Year.
Jason asked us to bring some of our games and simulations into his classroom to help his students get an understanding of Scrum and how it might be applied to their work during the school year. We leveraged exercises we use regularly in our Agile training involving playing cards, dice, paper airplanes, legos, and other fun activities. The students got to experience, prioritizing, planning, and executing sprints. More importantly, they got to experience the nature of teamwork in Scrum. It was fun, loud, and yes, a bit chaotic. At the end of the simulation, we did a retrospective. Of course, no good sprint can conclude without a retrospective.
This is when we realized how much we can learn about the essence of teamwork from a group of 6th graders. The following are the insights that they shared with us!
“Say what you will do, and then do what you said you would do” — It was clear to them that this commitment to deliver on your own personal commitments is foundational to great team work.
“Sometimes you have to change your plan so the team can succeed” — While they made plans, these students realized that plans often must change so that the team can deliver something together.
“If you finish your work, jump in and help out your teammates” — They realized that you can’t sit and watch your teammates struggle to finish a task if you have the ability to jump in and help them out.
While these are 3 pretty basic insights, it is striking how often they are forgotten when adults work together in teams.
Transparency is NOT micromanagement: Doing what you said you would do can feel like micro management, but is not that at all. It is actually about building trust with your teammates.
Plans are NOT contracts: Changing your plan for the good of the team can feel disruptive to your personal work, but is often necessary to achieve the goal.
Finishing your work is NOT enough: Cross-functionality requires that you step out of your comfort zone and lean in to the work of the team.
Thanks to Jason Vest for inviting us into the classroom, and thank you to the students for reminding us what good teamwork looks like.