Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Morning, Well Fed

I'm still digesting, because it was a big, big meal. Metaphorically, of course. Got back last night from this thing called "BootCamp", which is, at essence, a training to make teams more productive. Not just more productive, but a lot more productive. You know, great. Make great products. Do great things.

Are you making a face, thinking that I can't tell? Ha. Or is your faith in me so great that you're giving me the benefit of the doubt? Ha. I was making that same face in my head for about the first half of BootCamp. Then I started getting a sense for what they meant by "great". When I saw it happen in front of me, with me, I lost nearly all of my cynicism. (You have to keep some. Spices up the food.)

BootCamp brings to mind, for me, really hard work. You know, metaphorical push-ups. Some really intense group-work, at least. But no, the first thing we were encouraged to do was get clear on what we wanted. What we wanted? What does that have to do with team building? With productivity? Isn't this about what the organization needs out of the team?

Not, apparently, if you want great work. First the members have to get clarity on what they want and see how they can get it. Then they have to know that their teammates know what they want and will help them get it. That, it turns out, is hard (and slightly terrifying) work, not well-supported by our corporate culture.

It's also annoying. Once you commit to being present, to engaging fully, you care. And down the road of caring is conflict with other annoying humans who don't see things the way you do. Conflict, it turns out, is a good thing, if you handle it right.

What does management typically say? Get back to your (mind-numbing and uninspiring) work. Do what you want on your own time. And if you want fabulous work out of your team? Pay them more. Incentivize. But that just doesn't work.

And what if you want the team to be not just better, but really fabulous? In his post about his own experiences at BootCamp, Adam Feuer (my reason for being there), says: "And while we're at it, let's not just get a merely 'better' team. Let's go for great – a team that is 10x better than the average team. What does a team like that look like?"

I got to see something like that, in my three-day training. How did we get there? The recipe (which changes with each BootCamp) is something like this: Get each person to agree to be present. Ask them what they want and get them on the road to getting it. Have them use some interpersonal protocols to make communication cleaner and action more effective. Then ask the team to do something better and faster than they've ever done before.

I would not have guessed that this would work. But I saw it work. A bit past my ego and fears, I saw something odd and delicious: a team that came up with something brilliant, fast, on-time, that matched the needs of management.

And I got to feel it.

I'm still digesting. But one of the tastiest bits was to discover how limited is my understanding of how long it takes to get quality work out of a suitably motivated team. And if that's wrong in a team, maybe it's wrong for me personally, too.


Must digest more.


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