Thursday, May 14, 2009


I've been reading Beautiful Teams, and some of it has me thinking. The book is full of stories of problems solved, or teams taken from bottom-of-the-barrel to rockstars

When things are going badly, it can take some time to turn around. You're not going to fix a bad team dynamic overnight. You're not going to clean up a bunch of spaghetti code in a day. You're not going to take your code coverage from 5% to 90% in a few days. All of that takes time - weeks, months, even years.

But... there is one thing you can change right away.

You can create hope.

You can help a team believe that the dynamic can be fixed, and that everyone on the team actually wants it to be fixed. Trust will come later, but now you have hope that at least trust could possibly one day be achieved. It's not about trust falls or showing ways in which showing trust is useful. It's about getting the team together, acknowledging the dynamic is bad, and getting public commitment from every member to try (by the way, this takes a lot of advance preparation). You haven't actually fixed anything, but you've provided hope.

You can show a team that the spaghetti code will be cleaned up. Take an hour - just one hour - and clean something with the team. Then reveal your plan for how you've sold product management on allotting time in every release cycle to clean up code, or how you've added that to your feature estimates. You've barely touched anything. But you've provided hope.

In the end, you don't have to finish something to make it better. You just have to:
  • Notice a problem
  • Define the problem publicly
  • Fix a tiny tiny portion of it
  • Be specific about how you're going to fix it
All those things together create hope. And hope, ultimately, is how you get things to change. People with hope are people who will commit to making things better, and people who will work toward a goal... people who can become an effective team.

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