How to Stifle Teamwork

As an appetizer for an upcoming Work Better article on collaboration techniques, I’m pleased to present these team work worst practices from Ester Derby’s Software Managemet Process Improvement weblog:

A clear strategy to stifle teamwork

Establish two classes of membership on the team [WP NOTE: i.e. developers and testers, employees and contractors, or people with technical focus and people with business focus] , then follow these steps to ensure that all are aware of the distinction

3) Hold meetings to discuss project business, and exclude the 2nd class team members. If they ask to attend, tell them the meetings are to discuss topics they don’t need to know about… or say “This is meeting is only for 1st class team members.”?

4) Swap in new 2nd class staff frequently (2nd class team member are fungible, afterall, unlike more important 1st class team members). This is a double-header strategy – it slows down progress, too!

8) Blame the 2nd class when the so-called team fails to work together effectively…“They just don’t understand how to work as part of a team.”?

For all 8 helpful hints, visit A clear strategy to stifle teamwork.

As illustrated by this article, teams are about quality interpersonal relationships. If the office culture doesn’t support building collaborative relationships – failure is imminent. For the project, the team, and the organization.

Collaborative Technologies at Work – Bottom Up Productivity

Corporate IT departments consider new collaborative technologies (Wikis, Weblogs, Instant Messaging) as rogue elements to be eliminated. When in fact, they are increase productivity.

Ross Mayfield points to this eWeek article describing one organization’s battle with its own people.

The most recent problems came to light when a network failure cut off e-mail and Web access throughout the company’s far-flung operations.

Instead of simply calling it a day, creative employees quickly implemented workarounds. One group installed a quick and dirty Wiki to enable team communications.

Another took advantage of America Online Inc.’s Instant Messenger application to route files and messages between geographically remote employees. Others used Web e-mail and wireless networking to keep the company’s business flowing.

The CIO’s response was predictable: He moved quickly to lock down corporate desktops and laptops to prohibit users from installing unapproved software or accessing unsupported Web services.

New technologies are not without risk, but by eliminating homegrown productivity innovations Corporate IT departments themselves risk being considering irrelevant – thereby increasing constituents finding their own unsupported solutions.

A Best-ter Buy. Part 2

Updating the stores to appeal to a specific customer segment is great, Best Buy goes the extra mile in this renovation and makes sales more visible to staff.

Employees begin their day by reviewing the previous day’s figures, which are written on a dry-erase board and compared to the previous month. At a Westminster store meeting open to the media, Chris Smith, an operating supervisor, pointed out that the store had $550 in overtime costs the previous day, and asked employees to suggest ways to reduce it.

SF Gate has a great follow up on my earlier Best Buy persona post

Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments, with 110 stores scheduled to make the switch by February.

There are two interesting points here:

  1. Starting each day reviewing sales figures with the staff
  2. Looking for improvement from the people with day-to-day knowledge

Like a page out of James Womack’s Lean Thinking. These two points reinforce Womack’s patterns of “visual controls leading to continuous improvement” and “asking for improvements from the people on the front-line leads to a continued commitment”.

Best of Luck to Best Buy.

Outsourcing to Nebraska

Sending those jobs to India would cut the costs even more, to maybe $10 an hour in wages and overhead. But JetBlue thinks the better service from home agents offsets that price advantage, notwithstanding the occasional barking dog in the background.

His [David Neeleman, the discount carrier’s chief] motivation was mainly to make agents happy, the theory being that happy workers sound better on the phone than morose ones.

Some of the clients we’ve worked with have call centers in North Dakota handling their customer inquiries and concerns. The exerpts above are from The Slipper Solution at Forbes.com outlines discount air maverick JetBlue’s call-center strategy – call-center employees work from home.

First, cost-cutting eventually cuts service quality and brand reputation. Two things JetBlue should be averse to compromising. Secondly, happy employees make for happy customers. The relationship front-line employees have with customers is reflective of the employer-employee relationship. That’s why Working Pathway’s focuses on improving the employee experience.