The Big Elephant Impediment In The Room

May 20, 2010 CollabNet VersionOne

Do you remember back in school, when you reached the level of classes where you had lab teams that were intended to work together on an assignment? Remember how that the group shared in the grade given for the deliverable?

I remember a team I was on in a biology class that had four people on it who had fairly different motivations. Their levels of contribution to the project ranged from huge to virtually nothing. The team member types ranged from achievers, those who were committed and motivated to get the ‘A’ to the “Tom Sawyer” type, the person looking to get others to do their work. The Tom Sawyer type knew that the achiever would not let the team fail and if necessary would do all the work to get the ‘A’ and the “Tom Sawyer” type took advantage of this fact. As you’d expect, there was virtually no trust on this team and its communication was dysfunctional.

Unfortunately, in this academic environment, you had to deal with the situation you were dealt and it often taught a very poor lesson; to be individually competitive and to forget the team. Too often you see this same behavior on teams in the business world today. This behavior is what prevents many teams from ever becoming even functional, let alone high performing. This is especially true for agile development teams. This is the Elephant Impediment that many don’t want to address.

In my next series of posts, I will explore this situation further and provide some insights into how organizations and servant leaders can work to enable agile teams to herd this pesky pachyderm out of their way.

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