How to Get a Dysfunctional Team Back on Track

Maybe you’ve been part of a team that you’ve seen slowly slide into a rut. You didn’t notice it happen, but you’re now not shipping anything, no one’s talking to each other, and the management’s Eye of Sauron has cast its gaze upon you.

文章继续下面

也许你刚刚加入了一个低迷的团队。

Maybe the people who used to oil the wheels that kept everyone together have moved on and you’re having to face facts—you all hate each other.

然而,在这种情况下你最终结束了,事实是你现在在这里,这取决于某人做一些事情。那个人可能是你。

You’re not alone#section2

The first thing to understand is that you’re not the only person to ever encounter problems. Things like this happen all the time at work, but there are simple steps you can take and habits you can form to ease the situation and even dig yourself (and your team) out of the hole. I’ll share some techniques that have helped me, and maybe they can work for you, too.

所以让我告诉你一个关于一个炎热的故事,我发现自己是如何转过身来的。姓名和细节已更改以保护无辜。

It always starts out great#section3

An engineer called Jen was working with me on a new feature on our product that lets people create new meal recipes themselves. I was the Project Manager. We were working in six-week cycles.

她必须依赖一个由Tom(他在另一个团队中)管理的API,以允许她在中央数据库中获取和设置新的配方信息。在我们开始之前,每个人都知道总的目标,每个人都面带微笑,准备出发。

The system architecture was a legacy mishmash of different parts of local databases and API endpoints. And, no prizes for guessing what’s coming next, the API documentation was like Swiss cheese.

Two weeks into a six-week cycle, Jen hit Tom up with a list of her dream API calls that she wanted to use to build her feature. She asked him to confirm or deny they would work—or even if they existed at all—because once she started digging into the docs, it wasn’t clear to her if the API could support her plans.

However, Tom had form for sticking his head in the sand and not responding to requests he didn’t like. Tom went to ground and didn’t respond. Tom’s manager, Frankie, was stretched too thin, and hence wasn’t paying attention to this until I was persistently asking about it, in increasingly fraught tones.

In the meantime, Jen tried to do as much as she could. Every day she built a bit more based on her as-yet unapproved design, hoping it would all work out.

With two weeks left to go, Tom eventually responded with a short answer—which boiled down to “The API doesn’t support these calls and I don’t see why I should build something that does. Why don’t you get the data from the other part of the system? And by the way, if I’m forced to do this, it will take at least six weeks.”

正如我们所知道的,六个星期分为两周没有去。问题。

How did we sort it?

Step 1 — Accept#section4

When things go south, what do you do?

Accept it.

Acknowledge whatever has happened to get you into this predicament. Take some notes about it to use in team appraisals and retrospectives. Take a long hard look at yourself, too.

Write a concise, impersonal summary of where you are. Try not to write it from your point of view. Imagine that you’re in your boss’ seat and just give them the facts as they are. Don’t dress things up to make them sound better. Don’t over-exaggerate the bad. Leave the emotions to the side.

When you can see your situation clearly, you’ll make better decisions.

Now, pointing out the importance of taking some time to cool down and gather your thoughts seems obvious, but it’s based on the study of some of the most basic circuitry in our brains. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book,Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, introduces the concept ofemotional hijacking; the idea that the part of our brain that deals with emotion—the limbic system—can biologically interrupt rational thinking when it is overstimulated. For instance, experiments show thatthe angrier men get, the poorer are the decisions they makeat the casino. And another study found that people in a negative emotional state are更有可能偏离逻辑规范. To put it another way, if you’re pissed off, you can’t think straight.

因此,当您面临事实时,避免诱惑将其视为记录,只能在电话或与您的同事亲自讨论它。通过写下它没有什么可害怕的。如果事实证明,您对某事有错误,您可以随时承认并更新笔记。如果你没有写下来,那么将来总是有误解或误读的范围。

在我们的情况下,我们总结了我们如何在那个时刻结束;突出点是:

  • 我没有检查过,以确保我们在致力于工作之前正确地击败它。API覆盖范围是斑驳并不令人惊讶的是,但我视而不见,因为我们对新功能感到兴奋。
  • Jen应该先寻找难题,而不是几周的善良,围绕边缘的轻松工作。这就是为什么我们在顶部失去了两周。
  • Tom and Frankie’s communication was poor. The reasons for that don’t form part of this discussion, but something wasn’t right in that team.

And that’s step one.

Step 2 — Rejoice#section5

很少有人喜欢犯错误,但每个人让人在寡糖r life. Big ones, small ones, important ones, silly ones—we all do it. Don’t beat yourself up.

A Venn diagram with one circle showing the set of people who make mistakes. In a smaller circle completely inside the first is the set of people who think they don't make mistakes.

在我职业生涯的开始,我工作在一个团队谁e manager had a very high opinion of himself. He was good, but what I learned from him was that he spread that confidence around the team. If something was looking shaky, he insisted that if we could “smell smoke,” that he had to be the first to know so he could do something about it. If we made a mistake, there was no hiding from it. We learned how to face up to it and accept responsibility, but what was more important was learning from him the feeling we were the best people to fix it.

没有抱怨的怨恨。完成了什么,完成了。这一切都是为了把它放在我们身后。

He would tell us that we were only in this team because he had handpicked us because we were the best and he only wanted the best around him. Now, that might all have been manipulative nonsense, but it worked.

The only thing you can control is what you do now, so try not to fret about what happened in the past or get anxious about what might happen in the future.

考虑到这一点,一旦你写了粘性情况的摘要,就把它放在一边!

我会秘密让你。没有人对你到这里的方式感兴趣。他们可能会问你这件事(可能是因为他们害怕有人会问他们),但他们总是对你如何对问题进行更感兴趣。

So don’t waste time pointing fingers. Don’t prepare slide decks to throw someone under the bus. Tag that advice with a more general “don’t be an asshole” rule.

If you’re getting consistent heat about the past, it’s because you’re not doing a good enough job filling the bandwidth with a solid, robust, and realistic plan for getting out of the mess.

So focus on the future.

Sometimes it’s not easy to do that, but remember that none of this is permanent. Trust in the fact that if you pull it together, you’ll be in a much more powerful position to decide what to do next.

Maybe the team will hold together with a new culture or, if it is irretrievably broken, once you’re out of the hole then you can do something about it and switch teams or even switch jobs. But be the person who sorted it out, or at the very least, be part of the gang who sorted it out. That will be obvious to outsiders and makes for a much better interview question response.

In our story with Jen, we had a short ten-minute call with everyone involved on the line. We read out the summary and asked if anyone had anything to add.

Tom spoke up and said that he never gets time to update the API documentation because he always has to work on emergencies. We added that to our summary:

  • 汤姆有一个持续的时间管理问题。他没有足够的时间分配以维护和改进API文档。

After that was added, everyone agreed that the summary was accurate.

我解释说,现在可能发生的最糟糕的事情是,我们必须向更广泛的业务汇报,我们已经搞砸了,不能赶上我们的最后期限。

如果我们这样做,我们会丢脸。会有意图l financial consequences. It would show up on our appraisals. It wouldn’t be good. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it wasn’t something that we wanted. Everyone probably knew all that already, but there’s a power in saying it out loud. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so scary.

Jen spoke up to say that she was new here and really didn’t want to start out like this. There was some murmuring in general support. I wrapped up that part of the discussion.

我有目的地没有进入关于解决方案的讨论。我们都聚集在一起,承认我们所处的情况。我们已经这样做了。现在就足够了。

Step 3 — Move on#section6

Stepping back for a second, as the person who is going to lead the team out of the wilderness, you may want to start getting in everyone’s face. You’ll be tempted to rely on your unlimited reserves of personal charm or enthusiasm to vibe everyone up. Resist the urge! Don’t do it!

Your job is to give people the space to let them do their best work.

我经过惨痛的教训才学到这个。I’m lucky enough that I can bounce back quickly, but when someone is under pressure, funnily enough, a super-positive person who wants to throw the curtains open and talk about what a wonderful day it is might not be the most motivational person to be around. I’ve unwittingly walked into some short-tempered conversations that way.

Don’t micromanage. In fact, scrap all of your management tricks. Your job is to listen to what people are telling you—even if they’re telling you things by not talking.

Reframe the current problem. Break it up into manageable chunks.

The first task to add to your list of things to do is simply to “Decide what we’re going to do about [the thing].”

这可能是一个令人讨厌的老吉拉门票,每个人都在避免或已经在不同的团队成员之间来回反弹。把它放在一边。现在有太多的情绪内容投入了这件票。

创建一个完全以决定为中心的新任务。现在,将其分解为团队每个成员的子组织,如“提交下一个要做的建议”。把自己的建议放在混合中,但尽力解散自己。

Once you start getting some suggestions back and can tick those tasks off the list, you start to generate positive momentum. Nurture that.

If a plan emerges, champion it. Be wary of naysayers. Challenge them respectfully with “How do you think we should…?” questions. If they have a better idea, champion that instead; if they don’t respond at all, then gently suggest “Maybe we should go with this if no one else has a better idea.”

Avoid words like “need,” “just,” “one,” or “small.” Basically, anything that imposes a view of other people’s work. It seems trivial, but try to see it from the other side.

说:“我只需要你改变一件小事”击中了丑陋的奖金。它不可思议地减少了别人的努力。工程师或设计师可以通过思考来合理地反应“你对如何做到这一点是什么?!”你的工作是帮助每个人丢弃他们的警卫并感到足够的安全来贡献。

Instead, try “We’re all looking at you here because you’re good at this and this is a nasty problem. Maybe you know a way to make this part work?”

很多时候,人们想要帮助.

So I asked Jen, Tom, and Frankie to submit their proposals for a way through the mess.

It wasn’t straightforward. Just because we’d all agreed how we got here didn’t just magically make all the problems disappear. Tom was still digging his heels in about not wanting to write more code, and kept pushing back on Jen.

There was a certain amount of back and forth. Although, with some constant reminders that we should maybe focus on what will move us forward, we eventually settled on a plan.

像大多数妥协一样,它并不漂亮或简单。Jen将不得不依靠使用本地数据库进行一定数量的较低优先级功能。汤姆将不得不创建一些额外的API函数,最终会有一些不必要的流量,可能会在API上创造太多负载。

And even with the compromise, Tom wouldn’t be finished in time. He’d need another couple of weeks.

But it was a plan!

N.B. Estimating is a whole other subject that I won’t cover here. Check out theShape Up对此的一些伟大建议的过程。

Step 4 — Spread the word#section7

一旦你有了一个计划,就付诸行动,告诉所有受影响的人发生了什么。

When communicating with people who are depending on you, take the last line of your email, which usually contains the summary or the “ask,” and put it at the top. When your recipient reads the message, the opener is the meat. Good news or bad news, that’s what they’re interested in. They’ll read on if they want more.

If it’s bad news, set someone up for it with a simple “I’m sorry to say I’ve got bad news” before you break it to them. No matter who they are, kindlyframing the conversation will help them digest it.

When discussing it with the team, put the plan somewhere everyone can see it. Transparency is key.

Don’t pull any moves—like publishing deadline dates to the team that are two weeks earlier than the date you’ve told the business. Teams aren’t stupid. They’ll know that’s what you do.

Publish the new deadlines in a place where everyone on the team can see them, and say we’re aiming for this date but we’re telling the business that we’ll definitely be done by that date.

In our case, I posted an update to the rest of the business as part of our normal weekly reporting cycle to announce we’d hit a bump that was going to affect our end date.

Here’s an extract:

Hi everyone,

这是本周的最新情况。恐怕有一点坏消息要开始,但也有一些好消息。

First:

We uncovered a misunderstanding between Jen and Tom this week. The outcome is that Tom has more API work to do than he anticipated. This affects the delivery date and means we’re now planning to finish 10 working days later on November 22.

**Expected completion date ** CHANGED ****
Original estimate: November 8
Current estimate: November 22

Second:

We successfully released version 1.3 of the app into the App Store .

And so on…

That post was available for everyone within the team to see. Everyone knew what was to be done and what the target was.

I had to field some questions from above, but I was ready with my summary of what went wrong and what we’d all agreed to do as a course of action. All I had to do was refer to it. Then I could focus on sharing the plan.

所有的事情都应该很好#section8

现在,我想说的是,接下来的一个月里,我们每天都喝茶,吃烤饼,这真是太刺激了。但那是个谎言。

There was some more wailing and gnashing of teeth, but we all got through it and—even though we tried to finish early but failed—we did manage to finish by the November 22 date.

然后,经过一番整理,我们都进入了下一个项目,有点老,有点聪明。如果你遇到类似的情况,我希望这能对你有所帮助。给我发鸣叫或者给我发电子邮件liam.nugent@hey.comwith any questions or comments. I’d love to hear about your techniques and advice.

About the Author

Liam Nugent

Liam Nugent has been leading teams that design and build software for over 15 years. His interests include earth-centric design, web standards, and accessibility. He created “Lanark: a font in one weight” based on the famous Glasgow type style. He lives in Scotland with his wife and son who, at the age of six, already outshone him by inventing Kelloggs White Chocolate Coco Pops. (That is not a joke.)

No Comments

有话要说吗?

We have turned off comments, but you can see what folks had to say before we did so.

More from ALA