We were working on a critical project, with a huge emphasis put on delivering on time. I realized that the critical nature combined with the time bound constraint was causing some stress for the team. The team needed to be focus on the goals we had instead of worried about possible outcomes and other conjectures. I knew that if the stress wasn’t relieved, we wouldn’t be able to succeed.
My first action was to discuss with the team about the company’s goal and why this project was critical. I wanted to be sure that we all had the same understanding, and checked with everyone to confirm that they understood and agreed why the time constraint was needed. With the reassurance that we were all aligned on this journey, I moved to discuss how they felt about this, trying to not project my own view that they were stressed.
This was a candide discussion, where many did mention that they were stressed by this pressure. Digging a bit deeper, we concluded that one reason for the stress was that the team felt that there were too many meetings (harming their productivity) and that just the interruption from those meeting was getting them out of their flow. Based on this, we agreed to explicitly state the meetings that were optional to some people, cancel some, but also move to a virtual standup. The virtual standup allowed everyone to report and raise questions in a Slack channel, anytime they wanted between a fixed time period. That way, they could do that as their first task in the morning (whenever they started their work day), then get in the flow of working on their stories. At lunch they would review what others had written and catch up that way.
After 2 weeks we reconvened to see if that reduced the stress, but also if it had negative impact on other things. While some people were happy with this change, others raised some dissatisfactions, as they felt the reduction in social interactions, and also started to felt that they weren’t aware of everything that was going on. We agreed to have a weekly engineering only meeting, so I could share update and have the team sync up in person. Again, we agreed to check back in 2 weeks and see how things evolved from here.
Each team is different, and even change over time. Being able to constantly check on your processes for ways to improve and match the current situation is really important. Simply following patterns applied in other company blindly prevent you from finding the best solution for your team. There’s no perfect solution, so you have to keep tuning for the current situation, making appropriate trade off so your team can be at his best.
Originally published on Plato