Em Campbell-Pretty’s Book is Packed with Ways to Help Transform Your Teams
Tribal Unity: Getting from TEAMS to TRIBES by Creating a One Team Culture by Em Campbell-Pretty, 2016
The following is a review I wrote to post on Amazon, which I hope is useful to readers of this blog as well. This photo is one of me and Em at her book launch – I requested that she wear a big wig now that she’s a BIG WIG author!
I am an educator and coach who focuses on bringing Agile principles and practices to data warehousing and business intelligence teams. I first met Em years ago when she was walking ahead of me down a street in Boulder, Colorado one sunny day wearing a T-shirt with “World Leaders in Agile Data Warehousing” on the back. I couldn’t help but run up and ask her about her shirt! Although rather startled at being approached by a stranger in a foreign land, (Em is from Australia) she kindly gave me the short version of her story and suggested I come see her speak at a local Agile conference later that week. I did. She had wonderful things to say about changing team cultures, and I have followed her work ever since.
Em Campbell-Pretty is a business-leader-turned-technology-leader from Melbourne, Australia. She became interested in the Agile world when her company handed her the reins for a large under-performing data warehouse team that was considered “toxic” by both those on the team and those who regularly interacted with it. As she searched for ways to make the team a better place to work and more effective at meeting the organization’s needs, she decided to look into the “Agile” thing so many were talking about in business circles. Over the next two years, and in several years of consulting with other teams since then, Em has learned some important lessons in transforming the culture of a large team. She shares her journey and her learning with us in Tribal Unity.
The book provides a refreshing balance of motivation and practical reality, along with an amazing bibliography of recommended reading and solid tips and tricks for leaders to try with their own teams. At US $8.99 for paperback and US$ 7.99 for Kindle, the book is an easy investment for anyone wanting to learn how to tackle the very difficult challenge of changing team culture.
The author tells her story of how a corporation’s cultural transformation took place as she helped them launch the first SAFe Agile Release Train in Australia.
Besides the fact that the team she was working with was an Enterprise Data Warehouse Team (which obviously lights my fire!), the book first really caught my attention when Em told the story of Jean Tabaka visiting Em’s team in Australia. Jean was the author of Collaboration Explained, and an international Agile thought leader for many fruitful and glorious years (she passed away unexpectedly in 2016). Jean asked Em how she had created “an environment where traditionally introverted software engineers from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds were so willing to participate in team activities” (p. xxix). I have worshipped the ground Jean walks on ever since I first heard her speak in 2003, and her interest in this team’s behavior really piqued MY interest in Em’s story!
Tribal Unity is a collection of “repeatable patterns and practices that have been used both within and outside IT to transform the culture of organizations” (p. xxx). The book covers not only creating and nurturing great teams, but also making critical connections between teams, with leaders and managers, and with ideas. An interested reader flipping through a copy of the book might think such meaty topics can’t possibly be sufficiently covered in a book of just over 100 pages, and yet the reader will be surprised at Em’s efficient words, giving great ideas with real-life examples and in-depth suggestions for further study on each topic along the way.
As a reader, I underline things that catch my attention. Then I star or jot a quick note on things I really want to remember for future benefit. The most difficult part of reviewing this book is identifying only an appropriate few great moments rather than quoting the 46 (!) items I starred as I read.
Em is a wonderful presenter, partly because she is so funny. As I would expect, she’s equally humorous in her writing style. Here are a few gems:
“Inflicting daily standups” on her team (xxvi)
Within six months she had created six agile teams across four projects doing “the worst Agile known to man.” (xxvii)
“It was all just a little bit too hippie for me” (p. 10)
Another aspect of the book I deeply appreciate is the wealth of references she draws upon and shares with her readers. She includes insightful summaries of work created by excellent business leaders, like W. Edwards Demming, and agile mentors, like Kent Beck. She further punctuates her writing with thoughtful quotes by Olympic winners, like Taiichi Ohno and writers like Brene Brown. As I read the book, and since putting it down, I want to lead a book club that reads this together, then dives into each of the recommended texts put forth by Em! (If you’d like to join me in a Skype-led book club, please email me: lynn@winterboerAgileAnalytics.com).
I finished the book feeling inspired to embrace the belief that leaders CAN change culture. I am motivated to take tangible action this very afternoon! This book is a key reference guide for me now and going forward – I even bought the Kindle version so I have easy access to Em’s guidance on my mobile phone. I have already sent gifts of this book to several good friends and key clients – those who are leaders seeking to make their organization a great place to work. I also think it’s a valuable book for any leader who wants to be truly inspiring to everyone he or she meets.
Buy it today: www.amazon.com – Tribal Unity