Adding more people won’t fix the problem!!!

Dilbert picks up on what is still a surprisingly common issue:

We’ve known this for generations, quite often, if your project is in trouble, the last thing you need is some help. The promised help rarely turns into help, it nearly always turns into more problems.

The issue here is simple, people aren’t like RAM, they can’t just be plugged in and put to work instantaneously. People need to be brought up to speed, they need to be managed, they need somewhere to sit, they need access to things. They come with an overhead that is higher than their value at the beginning.

There are things that you can do to make each of these things easier, but they need building in from the start.

If you add a number of people then you are likely to have to go through the whole forming, storming, norming, performing team development cycle all over again.

Even if people were like RAM, you still don’t come for free, adding one person to a team doesn’t add one person’s worth of value, it adds more overhead to the management processes taking away value elsewhere.

Then there is the final, and probably the most significant issue, people are all different – different skills, different capabilities, different relationships. Adding the right person can make things better, but it’s unlikely that you have access to this person, if you did they would already be working on it. More often than not, the people you are talking about adding are the spare people. The spare people are definitely not the ones you want, they are likely to be spare for a reason.

If you still don’t believe me read The Mythical Man Month it was first published in 1975, but the wisdom contained within it still applies today.

(For those of you know me, yes this book is why I keep going on and on about Conceptual Integrity)

Team Forming – A Personal Perspective

By far the most popular post on this blog over the last few weeks has been my recent one on team development and forming-storming-norming-performing. Pisa

I’ve been involved in hundreds of teams and, in my opinion, the most important factor in the effectiveness of these teams has been the formation phase.

If a child isn’t given the right food in its early years its growth will be stunted and it will never reach its full potential. This is the same for teams that aren’t given the right start in life.

What is the right start though?

I mainly work on technical teams and there are, from personal experience, a number of things that, if done right, put the team on a firm foundation:

Early Face-to-Face Meeting

There  might not be any tangible benefits to an initial meeting, but there are a lot of intangible benefits. These intangible benefits are very important for good ongoing development.

At a good face-to-face meeting the team will start to build a rapport that will be vital in the storming phase.

We don’t have any technology, yet, that replaces the power of face-to-face meetings.

An Openness to Communicate

Secrets are a huge problem for team development. Hidden agendas are very destructive. In order to overcome these issue people need to communicate.

A Lack of Pre-conceived Ideas and an Abundance of Open Minds.

I have been in many a team where someone (sometimes me) believed that they had all of the answers and all that anyone needed to do was to get on with what they said. This might produce a quick result, but isn’t likely to produce the best result.

Where members of a team have had a previous bad experience of working together this can add to the problem.

Focussing on the Solution

Some people will always look on the bright side of life, and others will look on the opposite, negative side. Where members of a team focus, quickly, on the possible solutions the team formation is a good one.

Working Beyond the Boundaries

People are normally part of a team because they have a role, or a skill, or a position. If they only do the job that they are their to do, the team is likely to remain as a set of parts and not become a unit.

Valuing Diversity

Different members of the team will have different skills and insights. An openness to recognising and valuing these differences will let the team form more quickly.

I’m sure that there are all sorts of things that I’ve forgotten but these will do for now. Do you have some that you think are vital?