A Tale of Two Yards

On a cold, winter day, my family moved in to our newly constructed house in the suburbs of the Midwest. Despite the brisk weather we were enjoying, the front yard had recently been coverred with sod - grass expertly grown on a farm. The side and back yard was mud and rocks, and remained that way until late spring, when the builder finished the yard by smoothing the dirt, laying grass seed, and covering it with straw.

While both the front and back of the house appear as one yard, seven years later they still retain different charecteristics that reveal their origins. The front yard requires a regimen of weed and feed fertilizer, to prevent weeds from growing and to strengthen the lawn. The back yard still requires grass seed, fertilizer, and a healthy dose of water while I struggle to fill in stubburn bare sponts in the back yard. The front yard gets mowed weekly, while the back yard can go 2 weeks in between mowings. The front yard is green and almost completely devoid of weeds, while the back yard contains clover, dandelions, and other weeds alongside the fescue grass common to the midwest.

As coaches or leaders, at some point, we will find ourselves nurturing two or more teams at once. It’s common to assign a Scrum Master two teams, expecting them to form, facilitate, and coach for them both. These teams are like my two yards. Their needs, while based on the same science, are ultimately different. As much as I want to treat the yards consistently, they will need different levels of care, different levels of attention, and different methods and solutions to address their unique problems. And the same applies for your teams.

Coaching teams is like caring for a yard. You must observe what is missing, diagnose the problem, and apply a fix. Then you must wait patiently as the fix takes effect, changes the situation, and re-observe so you can decide what further changes are needed. Every yard, and every team, is different. But with experience, we can learn to be effective gardeners of our yards and our teams.