Our teams are composed of skilled and motivated individuals who are capable of
being successful on a project. Advisors are there to support those teams and do
not directly take on the responsibility of making the project a success.
Advisors take on some tasks that would distract the team from their day-to-day
priorities and are not completable by the client. These tasks can vary from team
to team with one team feeling something is a distraction and a different team
feeling something similar is not. Either may be true depending on the local
Some of the examples of these tasks include facilitating the weekly retro,
negotiating extensions, rotations, and rate changes, and scheduling dinner
around project wrap-up or rotations.
Maintaining a safer space
Advisors create the right environment for a team to effectively self organise.
That might mean standing up to the client if they constantly push the team or
change their mind three times a day. It often means teaching the client how to
interact with an agile team. It might mean asking the team tough questions if
they are continually shipping bugs, or starting lots of different tasks and
finishing none. Most challenging of all it might mean prompting the team to talk
about issues like a lack of communication between the team members if that's
causing problems. All these actions are collectively called "holding the space",
a reference to creating a safer space in which these tough subjects can be
talked about without any feeling of blame or aggression, which tend to prevent
everyone being able to engage properly.
Retrospectives are one tool that can be used to hold the space, but they tend to
be insufficient on difficult projects if they are the only tool being used.
Advisors help the team when there is a lack of skill within the team in one area
or another. The most common example here is with "consultancy skills." These are
the skills like talking about technical details to a client, saying "no" to them
when necessary, and helping them to understand why something is impossible or a
bad idea. These skills take time to develop and if there is no-one on a team
with them it can cause problems. The best solution isn't to put someone with
these skills between the client and the team but to help the team learn these
skills. Either by directly coaching these skills, or arranging for the team to
spend time with someone who can coach them.
Sometimes projects don't go well. If you're struggling or unsure what you can do
to help a project, reach out to your local directors or the #success channel on
Slack for advice.