Reflections on Management Excerpt

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Members of self-directed teams identify a problem and chip in to find a solution without a upper-management edict. This book excerpt gives advice on how to build teams that see the project through, no matter what.

While it seems desirable to have a motivated and energetic team, why is it important to you? The best way to describe the value of such a team is with an example.

My very first development team was building a complex cryptographic system for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. We had just started life-testing the first model when a hurricane hit. This was some time ago and weather forecasting was pretty crude, so the storm was a complete surprise. By Sunday morning, I got so worried that I went to our basement laboratory in an old building in downtown Boston to see how the equipment was doing. Even though no one had called them, the entire team was there.

We spent the next several hours turning off and disconnecting the equipment and getting everything up on benches, desks and crates. Water had been seeping up through cracks in the floor, and by the time we were done it was ankle deep. It took a lot of work for all of us, but everything was saved and the project finished on time.

This is characteristic behavior of self-directed teams: The members sense what is needed without being told, pitch in to help, and do whatever is needed to get the job done. This is their job, they own it, and they intend to finish it. This is why self-directed teams will stick together right to the end of the job. Typically, employee turnover on self-directed teams is zero. The members may know that the team will be dispersed, the organization disbanded, or the contract transferred, but this is their project and they intend to see it through.

This excerpt is from the book, Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself, authored by Watts S. Humphrey, with William R. Thomas, published by Pearson/Addison-Wesley Professional, April 2010, Copyright 2010 Pearson Education, Inc.

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  • Reflections on Management Excerpt.pdf
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