When I kick off product teams, one of the many things I do with them is play a game called Product Tree.
Product Tree is a game created by Luke Hohmann (Innovation Games®) where you use a metaphor of a tree to envision the different aspects of a team or product.
You start by drawing a big tree on a wall or whiteboard. The team members then write down on sticky notes the types of things they want to base their team or product on — they are creating the principles and values on which they will function. For example, they might put down words like trust, respect, responsibility, and so on.
I have deviated from the original game a little. I take a word they choose like “respect” and then ask everyone on the team, “What agreement can the team make to ensure we uphold our value of respect?” Once they discuss this and come to a consensus, we write the agreement on the card and stick it on the roots. I repeat this until every word has an agreement underneath it.
From there they move up the tree, documenting on more sticky notes the things that are quick wins (easy to accomplish and still gives value to the customer). These become the low-hanging fruit and go on the low branches of the tree.
The team then continues to document the features they want for their product at a high level. The closer to the trunk the features are, the higher the priority. If there is a pie-in-the-sky idea, it will still be captured and placed on the top of the tree.
Once the game is done, the tree hangs in the team space. If a priority changes, the tree can be updated and the roots are always there to be a visual reminder to everyone what principals and values we are standing on as well as the agreements that go along with them.
After playing this game with my current team, I started to wonder what my tree would look like. What would my roots be, my values and principles?
Throughout my leadership studies, I have begun to establish these roots. When I am first introduced to a philosophy or concept the root is short. It’s like dipping my toe in the pool to feel it out before diving in. As I learn more about each thing and begin to make choices on what is true or false for me, my roots grow deeper.
Being a younger (in the context of years alive) leader, I have found that there is always someone in the office that wants to take me under their wing and “mold me” by sharing their wisdom and their own practices or beliefs.
I appreciate their input and take it under advisement, but any more could result in a child-to-parent relationship and would make it increasingly difficult to do my job, which is to guide and lead them.
Instead, I stand strong in the knowledge I have chosen as my base, never denying the input and the chance to continue to grow but seeing it as another reality that is true for someone but doesn’t have to be true for me.
My intention behind creating my own tree is to hang it in my team space and give my team permission to point out when I am not being true to one of my roots.
I have found the more transparent and confident I am when it comes to my principals and values, the less likely someone is to view me as a “child” — instead they see me for the powerful, professional adult I am.
When facing a problem, how often are your roots challenged? If visualization helps you, try this exercise and create your own tree and display it.
Jessica Soroky, CSM
Only 21 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.
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