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Exploring a Team’s Circle of Influence

Circle of Influence and Control Activity

Highly effective teams focus and are proactive on spending energy on the things that they can make a timely impact. By doing so, they not only enable themselves to change things for the better, they also create positive energy and widen their influence over things that were previously out of their influence. Understanding the areas of improvement in which a team best spends their energy is an important step toward establishing a proactive continuous improvement mindset within the team.

The following activity, which is inspired by Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern and Influence and Control approach in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, is helpful when people would like to gauge what is within and what is outside their influence and control. During this exercise, team members identify improvements while removing the distraction about what factors are out of their control for the moment. 


Activity Guidelines

You can use the Circle of Influence and Control as a stand-alone activity or during an event like the Sprint Retrospective.

You can center the activity around a theme or an area of improvement that the team has concerns about and wants to address, or you can keep it generic.

Here is one way to facilitate a Circle of Influence and Control activity with your team to help them develop and embrace a proactive and continuous improvement mindset.

  1. Welcome and introduce everyone to the activity
  2. Draw a big circle on flipchart paper or (virtual) white board and name it ‘Circle of Concern’.
  3. Ask team members to write down their areas of concern on individual sticky notes and add them to the Circle of Concern.
  4. Group duplicates and similar sticky notes together. The team can help. During this process,  encourage the team to ask questions to clarify the messages
  5. Once all sticky notes have been added and grouped, draw a circle in the middle and name it Circle of Control.
  6. Invite team members discuss the individual or grouped sticky notes one by one and agree if it is something they can resolve or improve by themselves. If they can, they move the sticky note(s) to the Circle of Control. Team members might find that they have control of more things than they initially thought. Or, they  might find that there are not  many items they have control over.
  7. Draw another circle in between the Circle of Concern and Circle of Control. This becomes the Circle of Influence. 
  8. Ask the team to consider if there  are issues that the team does not have control over but could influence them? Team members move those they agree they can influence into the Circle of Influence. Encourage team members to ideate on ways they could influence a concern. Give prompts if needed.E.g. building relationships outside the team etc. 
  9. With all sticky notes plotted on the circle, briefly summarize the concerns that are in the Circle of Control and in the Circle of Influence. These are the areas the team can best spend their energy and make an impact.
  10. Use dot voting to allow the team to agree to the top three concerns they will address as improvement actions for the team in the next few Sprints.

Using a proactive mindset creates positive energy and widens the team’s influence and perspective over things that were previously out of their influence.  Revisit this activity with the team on a regular basis. 

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