The Agile Tribe

Three Truths

on September 6, 2011

Three truths about human behaviour that project managers should just accept:

Author: Graeme Robb – Agile Coach

1 . Many people become shy when the group gets larger than 5 people

It’s easily tested: put a group of 10 people together and ask them to do something. You’ll see that only 2-3 of them will be really actively contributing.

Do a separate test with groups of 5 and you’ll see that almost everyone will be much more relaxed and contribute in the task.

The truth is that many people are shy, and will withdraw almost completely from larger groups.

Now, obviously this is a personality thing and varies from person to person, so it’s probably quite relevant in IT where the requirement for high attention to detail and technical mastery often is best done by people who are on the introverted side of the scale.

Mix in some cultural issues and this becomes a very serious consideration. This reduced participation translates into $$$$s, so, design your projects around small teams.

2.  People will bond with immediate neighbours and unite against outsiders

When we see a person often; talk more than once a day; see their face; share a joke; say hello in the morning and goodnight in the evening; we feel close to the person and can establish a strong kind of trust.

When we don’t have this; we use email to list tasks; speak on the phone only just enough to talk business; then we tend to assume that the person represents a separate group of people who are working to a different agenda.

You’re probably doing this yourself, today. You won’t know because it’s subconscious. When we hear an idea from the far away people our subconscious assumes that the intentions are to make our life hard, yet, once we meet we discover that the intentions are fine, and we would even do the same thing.

The separation creates this negativity, it’s not real, it’s imagined, it becomes real. Before you know it you are putting the speakerphone on mute to strategise against the person and generally don’t want to interact with them. Admit it.

This reduced collaboration translates into $$$$s, so, design your projects around co-located teams.

3.  You can’t manage motivation into people

It’s impossible.

With the carrot and the stick you may appeal to the sycophants who care mostly about their status and perception, but you will get little response from the team in the form of constructive thought.

The truth is that deadlines and status reports will never push a person as hard as they will push themselves if you empower them, give them what they need and allow them to create their own success.

This reduced enthusiasm and closed door thinking translates into $$$$s, so, give your teams what they ask for and you’ll prosper.

 

 

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2 responses to “Three Truths

  1. David Zheng says:

    Agreed, great article.

  2. PM Hut says:

    Your first point is spot on! Not only that, larger teams increase communication channels. I have published on the advantages of small teams before. I think the ideal number of team members is 5, less than that you really don’t have a team, and more than that you will spend more time resolving conflicts and motivating team members than actually doing something productive.

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