Try Using the Power of a Metaphor…

Have your team try using the power of a metaphor…a metaphor that each member is familiar with.

Good exercise to try is this: have your team come up with a metaphor that they can use to evoke emotions…powerful enough to kindle some sparks to the team’s quest for high performance… which would be way beyond how they are performing today… beyond just going through their daily grind and going through the motions.

For example, a fruit-bearing tree comes to mind. Ask your team these powerful questions (have them ponder about it): what are the “fruits of their labor”? What manifests through their collective hard work? Did that “fruit of labor” come from a “tree” — the team being the “tree” — that has good “roots” and “abundant leaves”? A “tree” that is “rooted” well … rooted well being a team rooted in good Agile values? The “abundant leaves” being the Agile practices and Agile principles?

figsWould your team see this — “Delivered and released a business value in the shortest sustainable lead time while providing the highest possible quality” — as a “fruit of their labor”?

This metaphor exercise applies to all walks of life! For example, a salesman would come up with a metaphor and say this: “The ‘fruits of my labor’ are the sales that I make and the resulting commissions that I get“.

Even in biblical times, metaphors galore! Consider the parable of the barren fig tree:

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: fruitless fig treecut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

If a salesperson is not making a sale… give him/her some more time… if he/she will make a sale (bear fruit) then, well: and if not, then after that… why occupy the desk?

If an Agile team is not delivering business value… give the team some more time… if the team will deliver business value (bear fruit) then, well: and if not, then after that…why have a team?

The power of a metaphor is undeniable… a vivid metaphor delivers a satisfying “aha!” moment … as the idea slips into place into your team members’ minds. In the example, the importance of delivering business value (the “fruit”) is emphasized – otherwise, your team is just blowing smoke! The “fruit” is expected from “a tree” — a high performing team that is rooted in values, with good practices and principles, is expected to deliver business value that is worth remarking about.