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Atlassian Team Playbook blockers and how to overcome them

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Identifying and solving common facilitation blockers during Plays

Play blockers on the Atlassian Team Playbook come in many forms. A blocker can be a person, a logistical challenge, or an entrenched team dynamic. The good news is that blockers can be neutralized and managed once you learn to identify them.

Preparation and Practice

One of the most common blockers is also the easiest to solve: insufficient planning and preparation. Using a preparation checklist and familiarizing yourself with the Play instructions ahead of time will help you stay on track during your sessions. Additionally, preparation will help you maintain focus during the workshop, making it easier to spot potential blockers before they disrupt your team. Think of planning and preparation as preventative medicine.

If you want to go the extra mile before your workshop, consider practicing your Play alone or with a friendly audience. There are two ways to practice Plays: talk-throughs and dry runs.

  • A talk-through is a simple way to become familiar with the Play instructions and any specialized materials you have prepared for the Play. By rehearsing your transitions—the small but critical moments that help your team close out one section of the Play and move on to the next activity— you’ll get a feel for the rhythms of your Play.

  • A dry run is more structured, it is a complete practice run of your facilitation from beginning to end. Treat dry runs like the real Play, using a timer and testing all of your physical and digital materials.

Here are a few more examples of common challenges, their impact, and how to handle them:

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To learn even more about common blockers, watch this video featuring Lujan Cima from the Atlassian Craft Practices and Learning team.

Ready, set…Zoom

Distributed and virtual teams may face additional blockers during Plays, included limited participation, technological hiccups, and distractions in home office settings. For example, a dog barking in the background or a child bursting into the room can distract a participant and disrupt the flow of a Play.

The best way to combat virtual blockers is to establish ground rules early on. Ground rules give the group a shared set of expectations, and they level the playing field for participants with different levels of experience or seniority. Make ground rules easy to follow and easy to understand. Assure your participants that your team can overcome any hurdle so long as you all stay focused for the duration of the Play.

The most important takeaway: blockers are solvable

Preparation, practice, and ground rules are all effective ways to prevent or overcome almost any challenge. Learn from your mistakes by rehearsing your role, and be ready to respond to unexpected challenges with good humor and empathy. If you lead by example and maintain a positive attitude, you will be able to lead any team through a successful Play!

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Find more training resources for Atlassian Team Playbook on Atlassian Community:

14 comments

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa My greatest weakness as a facilitator: I'm always tempted to try taking notes and capturing insights while actively listening to the participants. I've learned that I can be 1) great at capturing, or 2) great at listening, but not both. I think the best way for me to turn this into a strength is to designate a note taker and/or record the session so that I can take notes async. In my opinion, a facilitator is providing maximum value when they are listening with 100% of their attention. 

Like # people like this

@Marshall Walker Lee totally agree. Having a designated scribe so that you, as the facilitator, can focus on facilitating, is ideal for being present in your facilitator role.

What's tough for me, and I'd be interested if this resonates, is that note-taking can be part of facilitation, too. When I run Retros for example, there are follow up questions I want to ask based on attendee reflections. And I'll take notes on that to remind myself of what to say later in the session. It's too bad I can't pause the session to write those down, but even reminders to come back to attendee insights can be something a designated scribe can take on as well.

Like # people like this

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa Yes, that resonates with me 100%. Sometimes I'm able to get away with simple one- or two-word reminders that evoke the idea/question I wanted to capture. Other times I end up with the word "blanket!" scrawled on a sticky note and I have no clue what it means. :) 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Stuart C Community Leader Nov 01, 2020

I'm so glad it's not just me that can't facilitate a retro and take notes at the same time. I always feel the need to record audio in a retro so that I can write up notes afterwards.

My greatest weakness as a facilitator I think is letting the conversation flow instead of leading people away from loops and helping to move the conversation forward. By loop I mean where two sides talk out there own viewpoint in a lot of detail rather than bringing out the main points. It can get heated, people get defensive and you can have those polite arguments where it's difficult to agree the common ground.

Being able to recognise these and help to identify the middle ground would be a useful strength.

Like # people like this
Brant Schroeder Community Leader Nov 06, 2020

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa - This is great information that I really feel is missing as a reference on the team playbooks.  Would it be possible to get this information added on the team playbook site? (I did not see it there)  It would be nice to have something like this more readily available and not just on YouTube or in the Community.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

@Brant Schroeder glad you like this! We're trying to see if this kind of material is better suited for Community, where users can engage each other directly. But once we get a little more info, we absolutely will use that data to inform where things should go. Up on the Team Playbook site is a strong contender!

cc: @Becky Rubenstein, Team Playbook Marketing Lead

Like # people like this
Sajit Nair Community Leader Nov 17, 2020

greatest weakness is getting the entire team (distributed) to be on the same page.. the timezone definitely causes more issues but we are trying to utilize tools etc and humane sessions to bridge the gap. :)

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Hi @Sajit Nair - +1 to that note. Documentation on working agreements, roles, and progress updates is especially important with distributed teams. And yes, bringing more human elements to a transactional-leaning digital world is another key thing to remember when bringing cohesion...because, team cohesion isn't just about shared knowledge. Love your insight.

Jack Brickey Community Leader Dec 16, 2020

this is good info that aligns well with what I have learned over the years. Much of this is incorporated into how I lead teams.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

@Jack Brickey - if there are any additional tips related to Team Playbook (or team session/workshop blockers in general), please drop more ideas here! And if there's a ton more we've missed or others resonate with, maybe we should do another article on your additional notes ;)

I wrote an extensive post on trust and psychological safety, but I have the impression that some of the analogies I used directed it to the spam quarantine - I hope it can be recovered from there.

Anyway, my point of the post was that the bigger the blockers, the harder it gets to get them on the table. And as calling things by their name is the first step in dealing with them properly, that is sometimes really challenging stuff.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

@Walter Buggenhout _ACA IT_ you're really resonating with why dedicated time for these discussions/Plays are so important. 

When I facilitate sessions, the most uncomfortable part of the discussions can feel the least productive to those who don't run Plays regularly. But really, just acknowledging that something exists IS a big productive win. Without that, the blocker will continue to exist and these conversations are the beginning of them being addressed. 

So to everyone who hates silence or not coming to consensus quickly, I say: those are the moments when you know you're on to something big.

Alexis Robert Community Leader Jan 15, 2021

great article thanks !

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Jan 15, 2021

Nice read, great info! Thanks for sharing!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

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