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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Software for Your Head 2

Continuing with the stereotypical project team kickoff meeting from Software for Your Head by Jim & Michele McCarthy.

We left off (from page 5) with:

My, but you’re feeling anthropological today, aren’t you? Is it maybe the presence of the cynics nee idealists? Does it touch you somehow?

Whatever. The scarcity of vision does strike you as interesting, even though it’s not a major topic of conversation (or even a minor one, for that matter). You know that most of these team members would agree that “shared vision” is a vital thing for a team. Why, if you went around the room and asked who was for and who against a shared vision, almost all would vote for it. Some would hedge or go technical on you (define this, what do you mean by that, it depends). But none would vote no. And yet, despite this general conviction, no one seems committed to a particular shared vision, or attempts to achieve one on this team. Of course, catching a shared vision, that’s a tough problem. Who knows where lightning will strike? Who has mapped the rainbow’s end? You note that there are a few who absolutely believe that a shared vision is the vital ingredient for a successful team. Still, no one speaks up about this obvious vacancy.

Instead,while you drift in and out, they plod on through the usual meeting follies, cracking a few minor jokes, interrupting without reason, talking overlong and repetitively, sporadically fighting for control, while somehow meandering through a poorly conceived and prematurely written agenda. Yet all the while the people on this team are somehow numbing themselves to a frightening lack of vision of where it is they are going. You wonder, why doesn’t anyone speak up? Don’t they care? You are willing to bet dollars to dog biscuits that plenty of perfectly good beliefs and values are lying dormant within the members of this team—beliefs and values that would make all the difference, if only they were put into practice.

But, because you are acting as a kind of mentor or coach, and are really troubled by this curious vision oblivion, you decide that the obvious first step is to get them going on a shared vision.

This would help. Short-term, anyway. Now that you’ve decided how to help, you can barely restrain yourself from saying something that might awaken their somnolent vision-building potential. But you say nothing now, and not only because of the difficulty of fighting the others for precious airtime, and of suborning the agenda, but because you intuit that jumping in with that straightforward and inarguable direction (get a vision, people!) might be a long-term mistake. You are having a growing belief that there just may be bigger, tastier fish for you to fry here. No sense settling for little crappies, you think, when some big ole lunker bass might be about.

You are increasing your degree of presence.

The problem, you think, is not merely that they ought to acquire a shared vision. Clearly, they need one, and they aren’t about to get one, not with their present behavior, anyway. And yet, your intuition whispers that the lack of a shared vision is not the most important issue to address. So, trying that on, you think some more. What was that about fish to fry? Teach a man to fish, etc. Yes, that’s it.

You know that some of these team members do believe in having a common purpose. You know the whole team would really catch fire if team members just had this one big, energizing, lightning-striking, all-solving vision! But here, on this team, almost unbelievably, not one person will even say anything about this AWOL vision.

You wonder why would they lie and betray their beliefs. A little more of your dwindling supply of innocence goes poof. There must be some explanation.Maybe the lack of shared vision is the symptom here, not the problem. The problem with this team is that not one damned person on it is speaking the truth. They don’t really lie, not much; they just focus on the smaller stuff, because the bigger stuff is too scary. So they don’t tell the truth. Not all of it, anyway. Hell, not even the pieces of it they have.

So now what?

Continues soon. Sound familiar? Please comment.

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