September 24


Does Your Team Love Working Together?

What does a sandwich have to do with working together? I'm glad you asked. Each component of the sandwich contributes something to the overall taste and experience you have when eating it. Some of these impacts are known up-front. Some don't become apparent until after you have chewed a bite for a while. And so with teams and team building, the same things occur.

I just finished reading this short article as I fed breakfast to one of my children (the joys of working from home during school holidays! No-one tells you this stuff).

It's a short, entertaining, but very informative description of an impromptu team-building event, with a very short list of items to keep in mind when building a team. There are 2 reasons this struck me as worthwhile sharing that I'll get to below. Take a read now, I'll wait if you want to come back.

My first thought when I read about one of this person's co-workers turning the charity golf game into a bit of internal competition was "oh, no, that's not going to end well." I'm glad I was wrong about that though, and the reasons it didn't aren't really made apparent in the article.

Me reading between the lines tells me the managers of this company event, particularly those that put the golfing groups together, knew enough about their employees to know who would get along well with whom. And this tells me that this company already meets item 3 listed in the article. The managers know their people, they know how they want their people to behave, and they have kept out of the day to day office relationship building process, whilst still keeping "an ear to the ground" and monitoring behaviour closely.

Being hands-off does not mean letting people do what they want. It means letting them do what they want inside the guidelines the company has established, from your published company values down.

My other thought was that many companies, particularly small companies that may be on tight deadlines or tight cash flow, don't necessarily see the medium- to long-term benefits of team building. I had recently left one such company, where I was advocating for the team-building exercise but others higher up the food chain were against.

Let me start by saying that, yes, taking an entire team out of "productive work" for a few hours to a day does have an impact on delivery timelines & the company finances. This definitely needs to be taken into account.

But the benefits that can come of a well organised activity. Particularly when a team is growing, or when members spend a lot of their time separated from the rest of the company (think on-site consultants or developers). By mixing people from different teams & departments and those that spend time on customer sites together, the interpersonal relationships built and team-building benefits are huge.

But they take time to become apparent. Departments working closely together - say ops plus development team for example - and understanding the challenges that each group face can lead to a fundamental change in the way work gets done in your company.

What would change in your company if the development team took into account the requirement to deploy software updates with no downtime **at design time** rather than when the update was "dev done"?

What would change if the ops or security teams were represented in any design meetings before any code was written, to make sure that not only could the software be deployed, possibly there may be changes to the deployment process or even the infrastructure, but also that all security measures were taken into account up front, before any code was written.

These benefits are hard to quantify, and often don't materialise until weeks or months after a project is started. But they can be huge.


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