Derik Whittaker

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Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
In order to run a successful project the project members have to feel they OWN the project. They must feel that they have:

  1. A say in the direction of the project
  2. A say in the decisions that are made
  3. That they can achieve the desired outcome

The best way to achieve all of the above it pretty simple, empower the team to make decisions needed to lead them to success. If you empower to make the necessary decisions the team will feel a larger sense of ownership and purpose. Ownership and purpose is what makes work energizing and engaging. There are many things that can be done to help a team gain a sense of purpose:


  • Start with a clear and compelling purpose

    Successful teams always have a champion whose first job is to communicate a compelling vision of the products potential in order to recruit volunteers.
  • Be sure the purpose is achievable

    The fundamental rule of empowerment is to make sure the team has the capability to accomplish the purpose of its works. When a team commits to meets is objective, it must allowed all resources needed in order to accomplish their job.
  • Give the team access to customers

    By talking to customers the team is giving a chance to validate it work. This will also allow them to receive feedback on the process in order to steer the project in the correct direction.
  • Let the team make its own commitments

    By allowing the teams to make its own decisiosn/commitments you have now received their complete buy in as to what they can accomplish. You have also engaged them at every level and they will work to accomplish their goals because they believe they can.
  • Management’s role is to run interference

    The ability to allow a team to run without interference from outside sources the team will be able to accomplish a tremendous amount. SCRUM says this best when it says that the SCRUMMASTERS job it to be the buffer between the business and the developers.
  • Keep skeptics away from the team

    A team does not need to be burdened by the naysayer’s. Nothing can kill a team’s confidence/purpose faster than someone telling them that their goals are not achievable.

Poppendieck, Mary. Lean software development: applying agile principles in your organization. Addison-Wesly, 2003

Posted 09-28-2006 7:12 AM by Derik Whittaker
Filed under: ,

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Comments

Joe Niland wrote re: Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
on 09-28-2006 10:14 AM

Good points here. I am lucky enough to be currently working in a team which operates pretty much like this. It has a lot to do with the team leader being experienced enough, and adept enough to withstand the pressure of upper management and keep things working this way. I can imagine it would be easier if the top-level management also bought in to these principles.

Was reading http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/09/good-agile-bad-agile_27.html earlier, in which he discusses similar issues. He describes the methods Google use to keep their teams motivated and on track. Of course they are quite impressive, but I what I derived from all of it pretty much concurs with this post. That is: developers must feel valued, listened to, free to make their own decisions, adequately compensated, not alone, and protected from the stress induced by things which are not in their control.

Brendan Tompkins wrote re: Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
on 09-28-2006 2:07 PM

"A team does not need to be burdened by the naysayer’s. Nothing can kill a team’s confidence/purpose faster than someone telling them that their goals are not achievable."

So, what if the goals aren't achievable?  Isn't it valuable to know early and adjust?

Derik Whittaker wrote re: Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
on 09-28-2006 2:22 PM

If the entire team does not belive the goals are achievable, then they should modify their goals so they can be achived.

The point of this to keep the negative energy away from the team.  What hurts a team more than people who don't believe in them (normally that person does not have full knowledge of the goals) telling them over and over again they are fulls for tring.

A good manager will block as much of the negative energy from the team to allow then to stay positive and focused on the goals ahead.

Daniel Arak wrote re: Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
on 09-29-2006 10:09 AM

In my opinion one the most important things is the shared vision, so if the manager cooparates in the same time with the customer and with the team it is a step to achieve the success. Someone said that "the art of the leadership is the art of delegation" - it is true - as Derik said when poeple feel that "they own the project".

Usually I am using mix of MSF and some best practices. In the evisioning phase you have to always decide if delivery of the product is possible. So starting a project you have at least 50% certainty that you can finnish it. The next half of confidence that product can be delivered belongs to your team members. A good manager knows how to achive this confidence and spread it out to the team. I am really glad that projects provided by me where successful  - I think it was caused by good motivation and clear accountability.

Joe Niland wrote re: Keys to Managing a Successful Team/Project
on 09-29-2006 10:15 AM

It seems that in this context if a 'naysayer' informed the manager that the goals aren't achievable, it would be the manager's decision to act and adjust goals etc without letting it directly be sensed by the team.

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