The Things that Must Connect

Ideas, efforts, capital, and more than everything else, the team.  This is something I hear time and time again, and know so very well, but it seems some companies still lack that insight.  To them the idea is the idea, the effort, or just the capital, the team is a second rank priority.

Those companies I would immediately sell them short, because they’ve sold the most important aspect of anything short, the team and the individuals of the team.

What about when those things connect?  It’s always a hard road, it is always difficult day to day in the beginning, but when all those thing connect under a good team, the company has a huge chance of success.  I’d even proffer to say far greater than the average business’s chance of success.

Everything from the operational needs of a company to the capital outlay, the people with experience will always tell you team first, everything else is secondary.  The first statement in the agile manifesto is, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools“, which I can’t agree with more than I already do.  The individuals of the team are of the utmost importance, without, you have no team worth any effort, capital, or ideas.

On this topic, what are good ways to get teams to connect with the ideas, efforts, and capital of a project?  How does a team really buy into the ideas, stay strong during the effort, and were does one generate solid capital for a project?

The Team and Ideas

Google has one of the best methods for assuring buy in on ideas for a team.  It is one of the simplest solutions I’ve ever heard, let team members work on the projects they want to.  With this simple idea you get automatic buy in on the ideas of a project because it was chosen by the individual.

The Google solution of course does not work everywhere.  In places were there are only a few team members or a few projects to work on, there is only singular focus on a couple primary ideas.

A good solution in smaller teams is to find, at least that I’ve personally found effective, is to break apart architectural needs and goals into stuff people want, let them pick and chose, and then the remnants that no one really wants to touch, dole it out accordingly.  This way the unmotivated is somewhat avoided by the motivated.  Result, increased buy in for the ideas behind the project.

The Team and Efforts

What motivates a team to work together well?  One of the best things that works, especially from a management perspective, is an Agile process that places individuals together on a frequent basis.  However I’ll be the first person to point out that a weak team, Agile does NOT fix.  In those situations there are needs to have a strong leader, that can mitigate differences and initiate communication and assure that the individuals are working to bridge the disparate goals into the primary objective goal.  Either way, a strong leader is pivotal to assure good cohesion of the group, but things are even better by an order of magnitude if the team just works well together.

What about other forms of motivation?  What about the extra effort?  Well first off, I’m a strong proponent of not burning out team members and that means working a sustainable pace.  Unless one wants to throw away the project and start from scratch in the short term, a project needs effort from the team members in a sustainable, consistent, and smooth way.  If too much effort is expected, dire consequences are all that is left to be had, so work sustainable, and reap the good results.

So far these things mentioned are big picture things to get a team to really put together a strong effort.  The other ideas, that are far more effective than anything I’ve ever seen, are doing things together as a team outside of work.  I don’t mean require a bowling day with the team.  I don’t mean push everyone into doing something outside of work.  What I’m talking about is the good natured friendliness of people to have a beer after work, to check out a movie, to grab lunch together to discuss a few work related, or non-work related topics.  When a team is cohesive on that level, the team just naturally is more relaxed about putting forth a strong effort and especially about working a high speed sustainable project effort.

The Team Capital

The team capital can mean several different things; revenue or income related money matters, assets and equipment to work with, and any of a number of things that capital is needed to complete a project.  This major connection point is probably the second most important of all the connecting points.  Without solid capital and the tools that are purchased there is only so much a team can do without tools.  Sure they can hang out, talk, and even come up with solutions, but they can’t create those with capital and tools.

A major element of motivating a team and assuring a good sustainable effort is to equip a team appropriately.  I don’t mean they need a X Box in the corner and a 60″ TV to play it on, even though it would be nice.  What I’m talking about is making sure team members have appropriate space or even offices maybe.  Make sure the team has monitors, good solid monitors with high quality and maybe even dual monitors.  Make sure each member has good hardware and the appropriate software for their efforts.  If they’re a BA make sure they have solid specifications and analysis tools, make sure developers get the good tools like ReSharper, TestDriven, and others.  With the right tools, a project can then have the appropriate priority focus on the people and interactions, without the right tools the team just dwells on how to even finish their day.

So those are a few points I just wanted to make and also to provide a quick once over for people to read.  This entry is a kind of reference for how I like to start and work with a team on a moving forward basis.  It really is all so simple;  Individuals & The Team first, capital & tools second, find solid sustainable effort, and get buy in for the ideas of the project.