Note: The team are still storming, so I took some time to reflect on why our storming stage has been so long and how we can move towards the morning stage.

On Reflection of the last few weeks, I feel there are three main issues preventing the team from moving forwards. I feel that the team and myself need to recognise “individual and group efforts” and adopt strategies to start “providing learning opportunities and feedback” as well as “monitoring the ‘energy’ of the group” (Graffius 2021). Firstly it’s important that the team recognises where we feel we are not being recognised, I feel there is a lack of planning (and that my offers to support planning have been unappreciated), skill underutilization and a lack of psychological safety to feel comfortable.

Eline Muijres “Producer at Mi’pu’mi Games, an independent game studio in Vienna” and “Board Member of the Games [4Diversity] Foundation” (https://elinemuijres.com/). “You have to do better than just ‘not be abusive’. You need to be EXTREMELY inviting & encouraging to undo the internal programming of feeling unsafe to express opinions”.

A lack of planning, Skill underutilization & Psychological Safety

A lack of planning and opportunities for learning and feedback

I and other team members have tried to encourage the whole team to take part in retrospectives, as well as other agile methodologies like sprint planning and asynchronous stand-ups. We have discussed different options and how we can encourage everyone to participate. The majority of the team did not want to participate in planning and I feel that this has largely contributed to the team dysfunctioning, miss-communications and little to no organisation.

While not all team members did not want to participate in the activities set up, I carried out my own retrospectives and sprint planning, collaborating with other members of the team.

Moving forwards and opportunities for learning:

The whole team needs to commit to planning our tasks and sprints on Slack and/or Miro, or suggest an alternative. The team also need to commit to sharing their progress in an open way, again we suggested using Trello or asked for anyone to suggest an alternative.

Without sharing progress, discussing blocks and communicating at all – can we call ourselves a team? I will ask the team to share their progress and carry out a retrospective of our storming weeks. While this might be uncomfortable this will present an opportunity for feedback and learning from our mistakes.

Skill Underutilization and appreciating individual and group efforts

Skill Underutilization is Associated with Higher Prevalence of Hypertension: The Watari Study

In Japan, a study was conducted on the impact of stress and skill underutilisation. “This study was conducted as a part of the Watari study, a community-based cohort study aimed at examining the association between qualitative and quantitative job stress and cardiovascular diseases” (Konno and Munakata 2014). There is physical evidence for the stress we feel when we are underutilised. “a low perceived degree of skill utilization was associated with a higher prevalence of hypertension in a working population including various kinds of occupations. Our results may provide new information relevant to the establishment of healthier workplaces” (Konno and Munakata 2014). While I could not work on the prototype and support the team with my knowledge of Unity, Art Direction and general game design I experienced high levels of stress. Collaborative working should rely on all team members to contribute and support the projects, utilising everyone’s knowledge and skills.

Moving forwards and appreciating team and individual efforts:

Now I have access to the prototype and I can build a 3D environment I feel wholeheartedly better but it’s imperative that the whole team feels this way. I would suggest again we have regular clarification of roles, tasks and planning to make sure everyone feels they can openly offer their skills, knowledge and experience.

To support the whole team to feel appreciated, and show that I saw their efforts I asked everyone in private messages what they liked doing. The answers were things like writing narratives for games, illustration, design and so on. While re-scoping the project I tried to include roles for everyone, that they said they would enjoy like writing and illustrating.

Psychological safety in teams and team ‘energy’

What is psychological safety in teams?

“Ancient evolutionary adaptations explain why psychological safety is both fragile and vital to success in uncertain, interdependent environments. The brain processes a provocation by a boss, competitive coworker, or dismissive subordinate as a life-or-death threat. The amygdala, the alarm bell in the brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response, hijacking higher brain centers. This “act first, think later” brain structure shuts down perspective and analytical reasoning. Quite literally, just when we need it most, we lose our minds. While that fight-or-flight reaction may save us in life-or-death situations, it handicaps the strategic thinking needed in today’s workplace” (Delizonna 2017)

A part of feeling psychologically safe in the team is to understand that my own thoughts and feelings are leading me to that feeling of being unsafe. By psychologically unsafe, I mean unable to express concerns, ideas and issues. I took some time to reflect and found that I am suffering with ‘False Responsibility’. “Many people suffer from what is sometimes called toxic or chronic guilt, which is closely related to a false and overwhelming sense of responsibility” (Cikanavicius 2018) “False responsibility refers to an attitude when you feel responsible for things that, objectively, you aren’t responsible for and shouldn’t feel responsible for” (Cikanavicius 2018). While working at The Open University, on top of my role there I supported learners through qualifications in Customer Service and Business and Administration. The centre received near-perfect customer satisfaction scores (generally speaking so did the whole university) because we deeply cared about every single learner. I take responsibility for everyone’s happiness, and the last few weeks are beginning to teach me that it is, in this case, not my responsibility. I’ve been reflecting recently on my experience there, where I felt happy going to work every day, feeling like I was productive and making an albeit, tiny, difference in the world. At The Open University, I had been taught how to support learners through their qualifications and was always inspired by my colleagues, especially our head of development. I need to find my own coping strategy and formula for supporting the team in this module.

Moving forwards

I researched the following techniques, while we are still ‘storming’ to find a place where we can all discuss the work freely. The freer the team feels the more energised and safe we should all hopefully feel.

  • “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?” (Delizonna 2017)
  • Speak human to human” (Delizonna 2017)
  • “Skillfully confront difficult conversations head-on by preparing for likely reactions” (Delizonna 2017)
  • Replace blame with curiosity” (Delizonna 2017)
  • “For example, Santagata asked about his delivery after giving his senior manager tough feedback. His manager replied, “This could have felt like a punch in the stomach, but you presented reasonable evidence and that made me want to hear more. You were also eager to discuss the challenges I had, which led to solutions” (Delizonna 2017)
  • Measure psychological safety” (Delizonna 2017)

A sum-up of the Action Plan – How to get to the ‘norming’ phase

  • Continue to encourage the team to participate in retrospectives, so that we have an opportunity for learning and feedback as a team
  • Continue to suggest team members use their skills they enjoy like writing and illustrating to collaborate on the project
  • Continue to encourage communication and documentation
  • Strongly emphasise the need for a Roadmap/Milestone planning/Sprint planning
  • Strongly emphasis the need for clearly aligned goals
  • Strongly emphasise the need to clarify communication with a guide
  • Try to encourage honesty and psychoogical safety with Delizonna’s (2017) guidance

Sprint 4 ‘Unity and Getting Started with Probuilder’

Sprint Goal: Set up a layout of our venue in Unity with Probuilder

Note: Sprint 4 (Week 7) I have started working on the prototype, I couldn’t work in Unity earlier due to communication and conflict issues within the team. The team storming phase is still continuing in Sprint 4 (week 7) and while I wait for the team to be available to speak to I have continued to work on a 3D environment with no idea who, why or what I am building it for.

New skills learnt:

  • Probuilder and 3D Level Design
  • Creating new materials
  • Using Adventure Creator in 3D

Tools used this sprint:

  • PlayMaker
  • Adventure Creator
  • ProBuilder

Level Design in ProBuilder

The Team aren’t sure if we are building a nightclub game or a virtual clothing store, so I’ve been working on something that can be used for either/both and can be altered easily.

Layout – After sharing the level design for the store/nightclub, I re-jigged the layout in response to feedback from user research and the team.

Materials

Creating materials in Unity is relatively simple and through research I found a 3D community sharing quality textures. “FreePBR.com is a site dedicated to the video game development and 3D community who are looking for quality texture maps using a PBR workflow.  I love the idea of supporting indie game developers and 3D artists with free content for their video games and projects” (FreePBR 2021). I have used trendy metal materials like copper and darker metals with darker colours for the walls to give a nightclub feel.

Selecting an avatar and trying on clothes

I designed a small room to try on different virtual fashion outfits, using lights and a futuristic feel.

Grey Box Prototype:

During this sprint I also carried out a grey box prototype, testing Adventure Creator with the 3D environment I have designed:

Sprint 4 Retro (completed by two members of the team)

References

‘Download ALL (300+) PBR Texture Sets at Once with Commercial Rights – Free PBR Materials’. n.d. [online]. Available at: http://freepbr.com/materials/download-all-pbr-textures-now/ [accessed 18 Jul 2021].

DELIZONNA, Laura. 2017. ‘High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It’. Harvard Business Review [online]. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it [accessed 11 Jul 2021].

‘Eline Muijres |’. n.d. [online]. Available at: https://elinemuijres.com/ [accessed 26 Jul 2021].

GRAFFIUS, Scott M. 2021. ‘Phases of Team Development (Update for 2021)’ [online]. Available at: http://rgdoi.net/10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246 [accessed 26 Jul 2021].

‘How Toxic Guilt and False Responsibility Keep You in Dysfunction’. 2018. Psych Central [online]. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/blog/psychology-self/2018/11/guilt-responsibility-dysfunction [accessed 19 Jul 2021].

KONNO, Satoshi and Masanori MUNAKATA. 2014. ‘Skill Underutilization Is Associated with Higher Prevalence of Hypertension: The Watari Study’. Journal of Occupational Health 56(3), 225–8.

‘Making a First-Person Player | Adventure Creator’. 2021. [online]. Available at: https://www.adventurecreator.org/tutorials/making-first-person-player [accessed 26 Jul 2021].

MAKING YOUR FIRST LEVEL in Unity with ProBuilder! [Film]. n.d. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtzIXCKr8Wo [accessed 11 Jul 2021].

‘One-Page Designs’. 2021. [online]. Available at: https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1012356/One-Page [accessed 26 Jul 2021].

Store. 2021. Impalpable, Porcupines Love bark