A team is a group of people to accomplish something. That something usually calls Work or Job. In my job, that is building software, fixing bugs, maintaining systems; all sort of stuff related to software development. The common scenario is that we come to the office (or virtual office), pick tasks assigned to us, get them done. Mission Accomplished! So far so good! And if everyone can do just that, it would be a perfect team.
- The requirement is not clear.
- The client changes their mind.
- We do not control clients.
- We cannot plan. We do not have authority to decide.
Looks like the team does not have control over their job. It is fine to do just fine. What if we can do it better, or make it worth our time when we are working?
We cannot improve what we cannot control
We have control our work; but not by the authority, not by asking for permission, not by making special requests. It might work that way, yet the chance is low. Why? Because those actions depend on other people. You, unconsciously, just move the control over to your boss, your clients, … those whom you cannot control.
I have a few tips to get it back.
- Scope – What the team can impact.
- Internalized empower – Goal, Inspection, and Adaptation
- Protect your coffee
Scope – What the Team Can Impact
If you draw a diagram where the team is in the central, you might come up with something like this
If you see a team is a unit, you can easily draw that impact diagram. In those connections, some you can impact, others are out of your reach. Focus on what you can impact. Ignore the rest because not much you can do.
What are your team main areas? What are the factors that decide your team success or failure? You do not need to make a full long list. But you need some, agreed by the team, without approval from anyone.
Internalized Empower – Goal, Inspection, and Adaptation
Your team is doing a good job. We want to improve the team deliveries. Some might seek help from external resources. But I prefer the internal empowerment. By heading toward internal, we have the full control of what, how we want to improve. Asking for help is a good solution, but it must come after the internalized empowerment.
Regardless circumstances, we can start by setting goals for a week. When talking to people, I realize that setting goals is not easy for many. Many struggle with the perfection, focusing too much on how to set a good one. No. Stop doing that. Just pick any thing to get started. What important is the process, not the goal itself. Once you get into the process, it is much easier to define a good goal. It will come naturally. So you should not worry about that.
Inspection! Without inspection, we cannot grow. Inspection helps the team know where they are standing, how far they have gone to accomplish the goal. Inspection can be as simple as asking yourselves questions: Am I moving in the right direction? Is there any potential issues? … Inspection should happen daily basic.
Adaptation! The output of inspection is the input for adaptation. Everyday comes with new information, new challenge. You have to adapt. You have to response to them. Some expect a fixed period without changes. That is so naive. Requirements change. Deadline comes. Oh maybe a team member is on vacation, is sick, … By making Adaptation explicitly, you will deal with the changes better.
The whole thing sounds theoretical and vague. Yes they are. What you should take from here is the keywords Goal, Inspection, and Adaption. Either you start it now, or your team stays the same week by week. A good way to grow is depending on your internal power, not from outside or someone else.
Protect Your Coffee
I asked the kids, ” What would happen if somebody dropped sugar in my coffee?” They said ” you would be ok”. I said “What will happen if somebody drop strychnine in my coffee?” Well you’d be dead”. I said correct.
Lesson one: life is both sugar and strychnine, you got to be careful. I said ” what if my worst enemy drops in the sugar? They said ” you would be OK. I said ” what if my best friend even by accident drops in the strychnine? ” they said ” well you’d be dead. ” I said “correct “.
Lesson two: watch your coffee.
You got to be careful see it doesn’t matter who hands you the bad stuff it doesn’t matter where you get the bad stuff it’ll still do its damage on your bank account wherever you get it. Mr Shoaff gave me one of the greatest phrases when I first met him when he said ” Jim everyday stand guard at the door of your mind”, how important. Stand guard at the door of your mind and you decide what goes into your mental factory don’t let anybody just dump anything they want to in your mental factory because you have got to live with the results.
I like that story so much. It does not matter who hands you the bad stuff. It does not matter where you get the bad stuff. The result is the same. You get the consequences.
The team has been working so hard. The result is good. They are reaching the goal. And at the last minutes something bad happens because of a team member, because of managers, … because of … Regardless of “because of”, your goal is affected, your hard work is draining.
We cannot prevent bad things. It is a part of life, of Mother Nature. But we can reduce the impact if we raise our awareness.
Everyday we have to think of how to improve the team. Otherwise, a team is simply a group of people. No mission! No direction! I do not like such a team.