Last week I blogged about how I helped a team decide if they wanted to split.
This week I will write about how I helped teams to do their split. By now, I have been using this technique with multiple teams, their sizes vary from 40 till 7.

Warning:
If you want to use this technique, I want to stress that it’s crucial that the team itself wants to split. I was myself part of a group where this technique was used, when we were not convinced that the split was needed. That was a disaster. If you don’t want to take the time for a team to decide if they need to split, you might as well decide on the split yourself.
Update: ok disaster was a little harsh. One of my teammembers told me, it did work, yet we spend a lot of time discussing after the fact and a few people where really hurt. I’m convinced we lost more time after the split then we would have if we discussed before. For me as a coach I learned a lot, as a participant, not really.
F ex not everyone realized that the groups needed to be resplit. (there was a real need, yet not everyone was aware of it.)

Please read my previous post, to have an idea how I did that in one occasion.

Ok, by now your team has decided that they want to split. In a lot of cases, they will come back to you and say, please help us, we don’t know how to split our self up.
In most cases, what they mean is: make the decision for us.

Or to put it more bluntly: “I don’t like to say to person X I prefer these other people over you.”

People have told me, they did not like that, as it made them think of in school they had to select someone for sport or other activities. As someone who was bad at most sports and frequently selected last, I can see people don’t like that.

This technique is different, it does not let one person select, and there is no one selected first or last. Also this technique won’t help you as a manager or coach to select your dream team.

The team does not want to do it. You can’t either.

With this, you will help your team to self–organize in multiple sub-teams.



What you need: a large empty room.
I have used meeting rooms where we put all the tables and chairs to one site.

Then I ask the team to walk around in silence.
I ask them to feel the atmosphere. I tell them that won’t give them any criteria to decide. I also tell them I will not ask them to discuss criteria. The reasoning behind that, is that when you discuss criteria, you are looking for an agreement up front, and then people will come up with lots and lots of criteria they want everyone they agree upon. Which only slows down the process and usually does not help. (If you disagree, please read on, and at the end I will explain how I solve this.)

I ask them to form groups. (In some cases they agreed up front in the decision part about splitting up, how many teams they want. Yet I have seen teams split up in a different number and feel ok with it.)

I tell them that the way we will select teams is by physically standing together.  As long as they are not happy with the TOTAL result they should be moving.

That simple? Yes that simple. Yet as most simple things not easy.

How long does this take?
I have seen a team do this in less then 30 minutes and another team needed a few days for it.

How many facilitators does this need?

2. One to help the group stay quite and sometimes facilitate some questions. And one to talk people who have a hard time.

Does this get emotional?
yes. This is why you need a second facilitator that can have a person chat with people for who this becomes to emotional.

Does this guarantee the best team split?
No, not at all. Yet I know this is a much better split then any manager of coach can come up with.

What if there are some real constraints on how to split up the team, like every team should at least be able to do x?
For that I trust the people of the team. I know that there are multiple spoken and unspoken rules that these new teams have to follow. When you start discussing these rules -especially the unspoken ones- you have discussion and create separation in the total group.
When you don’t discuss them. The people that care about a certain rule, will not be happy with the end result. These people will keep moving. In the end, everyone will be happy, even if people might not agree on all the rules that everyone individually had for herself.

If you prepare people for the split, won’t people create alliances before? 

Cool question invented by a member of  my group, (the one that did not receive time to understand they needed to split)

For me this does not really matter. The fact we walk around and feel, these things will become very explicit.
When we see everyones pre created alliances, two thing can happen.
- Things won’t change: this basically means that the pre-split alliances are accepted by everyone. >> Great.

- Things do change:
Now people see that the created alliances don’t make sense for everyone. This might make people mad (remember the emotional part?) At least the not followed alliances are also very visible to other in the alliance (and outside).
Making things visible, make it possible to deal with.

Did the question to split came from the team?
I think this has been partially answered by my first post. Yet maybe not enough.
One of the teams had an external customer refusing to work with a sub-team. To reorganize the team was a team decision for them. The team were I explained the process of deciding, there I was hired to see if I could help the team splitting. I have no idea who came up with the original idea. Yet it was 100% the decision of the team to split. If they would have said no, it would have been no split. One of the things I guaranteed also was that after x time (x decided by themself) we would reevaluate the split. (That evaluation was also positive and I will post  that as a third post).

Could you give a few examples when things get tough?
Good question. yes I can and will.
1) It’s their fault
In one of the teams, the original problem that let to the desire of splitting up, was not solved after one of the moments that people stopped moving. (They wanted to split up a sub-team that customers complained about. And these people where still together, now with a few more people. )  When I asked if everyone was happy, one person complained that the people where still together and that they boycotted the process. I told him that although it was true that these people where together. I disagreed that it was only their fault. As everyone had been moving. So if everyone really wanted the split, they should all behave like it.
This seems to be typically. People prefer to put the blame on others, yet they don’t see how their own behavior had also on influence.

2) It does not work. Yves, you have to choose the team split…

This was a funny or maybe sad reaction. The team where this reaction came, they had been discussing before about the reasons for changing the team. One of the main reason that came up why the last set up did not work, was done my boss and the person who was in my job before. When someone said: “it does not work” (and multiple other were nodding)
I looked at them. I could not find my words. I looked at them for a full minute, and then I said something like: I don’t understand. You wanted another team split, as the previous one was done by x & y. And now you tell me I have to do it?
No. I refuse to. I have told you when I started, that I would give you tools that would help you to take decisions on your own. I could not explain then, what I ment. Well this is one of these tools.
When I said that last sentence, I looked around. I could see in their eyes, that it clicked. They started to walk around and some time later, they ended up with a team I would never have selected. Later a few team member told me, that was the moment she first understood what a self-organizing team really was about.







One Response to “How to help a team split in a self-organizing way”

  1. [...] Update: if you are interested in this, you might also be interested in how I help teams split up [...]


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