Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Hollis Tibbetts, Vinod Mohan, Chris Colosimo, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo, @DevOpsSummit

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Creating High-Performance Teams: Get Rid of Judgment

Real teams are formed around a common purpose, not a common manager

The biggest difference between high-performance teams and more average teams is that the high-performance group actually acts like a team.

That statement is so obvious, I am going to let it stand on its own.

If you look at most groups, they tend to act less like teams and more like loose affiliations of individuals that are connected through a common manager. The manager is an orchestrator, maybe even a facilitator at times, but that doesn’t mean the group is really a team. Rather, they are individual contributors that are linked by a common task management protocol.

Too many people make the mistake of thinking that teams are natural byproducts of a reporting structure. We should be clear: a reporting structure is useful for defining lines of communication and determining who is responsible for the administrative tasks of people management (expense reports, PTO requests, reviews, and so on). But a reporting structure has nothing at all to do with forming a team. Think of reporting structure more as a necessary evil because of the HR systems that we use.

Real teams are formed around a common purpose, not a common manager. A group of people all committed to a single end goal is a team. Who they report to is irrelevant; it’s the objective or the mission that defines the team. This is why open source projects can be effective. Even when people report into entirely different corporate entities, they are capable of working together to deliver a common objective. That is teamwork.

But what separates the good teams from the bad teams?

The best teams work in concert to accomplish something. They work in concert. This is different from the way many “teams” operate (quotes used for emphasis). Think about how a typical team works. There is some team lead who works to break the objective down into a set of tasks. These tasks are then farmed out to the team members based on their skill set or interest or seniority or whatever. The hope is that by pushing the individual activities out, people can execute against their parts in parallel, effectively speeding up the project.

The subtle point here is that the first thing the leader does is break the objective down into parts so that the team can go off and act independently. This isn’t teamwork; this is a hub-and-spoke management model. In fact, for many teams, the only time they come together as an actual team is on weekly staff or project calls designed to solicit status from each of the isolated individuals.

How do you know this isn’t teamwork? How many of us has been on one of these status calls, bored to tears because 97% of the discussion is irrelevant to us? We hate listening to people give status because we don’t actually care that much about what they are doing. It doesn’t impact us, so we find the detail irrelevant at best and absolutely maddening at worse. When someone takes time to get into the details of what they are doing, we think they are either grandstanding or rat-holing. If you ever have felt these things, you know you are not part of a team.

Real teams work together. They are engaged not just in their tasks but also more broadly in the initiative as a whole. They talk. They brainstorm. They strategize. They celebrate each other’s success. They share in each other’s setbacks. The real measure of a team is how well they collaborate.

Collaboration hinges on the free exchange of ideas. And there is no greater killer of collaboration than judgment.

Whenever people work in a group setting, they are taking on risk. The challenge of teams is that your performance is public. It is difficult to hide when everything you do is out in the open. When you perform well, it is exhilarating because everyone sees it. But when you fall short, it is terrifying because everyone sees it. And if those failures carry with them too much judgment, the person will naturally pull back until they are an individual working alongside a team.

When you give critical feedback, it is important to be specific and honest. But it is equally important to withhold judgment. You want to comment on the performance without judging the individual. You want to talk about actions, but refrain from commenting on character. When someone falls short – even if it is more frequent than it ought to be – you want to talk about the performance and not the individual. Someone might not be prepared, but that does not necessarily indicate laziness or lack of dedication. An individual might offer up a poorly thought out idea, but that does not mean the person is inferior or incapable. Talk about the idea, not the person. By keeping the discussion about the performance, you can have a very candid conversation without assailing the individual.

This is important because when people feel attacked, they either fight back or fall back. In the case where they fight back, the ensuing discussion is emotional. Neither side will be able to land points. There is nothing productive about this kind of exchange. If the person falls back, you run the risk of them withdrawing over time to the point where they don’t offer up thoughts or effort at allt. If this happens, you revert from team to collection of individuals.

As a leader, people will key off of your response. How do you treat your team’s setbacks? Do you offer up feedback along with a healthy side serving of judgment? Or do you comment on the performance and leave the individual out of it?

The answer might not be as clear as you think. It is difficult to self-diagnose because we frequently carry judgment not in our words but in our tone or facial expressions. If you are thinking it, people will be reading it, regardless of whether the words ever actually come out of your mouth.

There are ways to see how you are doing. If you ask your team about the status of something that is late, do you get a 15-second response or a 2-minute response? If the person you are querying gives you a lengthy description of everything they have done over the past week, she is justifying the lateness. That justification is because she is afraid of being judged. If this is a typical response, you might not be fostering the kind of judgment-free environment that you think. If instead, she gives a short answer about the status (“I haven’t finished yet, but I expect to finish by tomorrow.”), you are creating a safe space to talk freely.

When people can talk openly without fear of being judged, they naturally become more generous in sharing their thoughts. This makes collaboration easier. And ultimately this transforms groups of individuals into teams.

[Today's fun fact: Owls are one of the only birds who can see the color blue. Yeah, I don't know what the other ones are either. Our PR firm only gave me half of the fact apparently.]

The post Creating high-performance teams: Get rid of judgment appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
This talk centers around how to automate best practices in a multi-/hybrid-cloud world based on our work with customers like GE, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae. Today’s enterprises are reaping the benefits of cloud computing, but also discovering many risks and challenges. In the age of DevOps and the decentralization of IT, it’s easy to over-provision resources, forget that instances are running, or unintentionally expose vulnerabilities.
Everywhere we turn in our industry we can find strong opinions about the direction, type and nature of cloud’s impact on computing and business. Another word that is used in every context in our industry is “hybrid.” In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Alvaro Gonzalez, Director of Technical, Partner and Field Marketing at Peak 10, will use a combination of a few conceptual props and some research recently commissioned by Peak 10 to offer a real-world consideration of how the various categories of...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
When NSA's digital armory was leaked, it was only a matter of time before the code was morphed into a ransom seeking worm. This talk, designed for C-level attendees, demonstrates a Live Hack of a virtual environment to show the ease in which any average user can leverage these tools and infiltrate their network environment. This session will include an overview of the Shadbrokers NSA leak situation.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
As enterprise cloud becomes the norm, businesses and government programs must address compounded regulatory compliance related to data privacy and information protection. The most recent, Controlled Unclassified Information and the EU’s GDPR have board level implications and companies still struggle with demonstrating due diligence. Developers and DevOps leaders, as part of the pre-planning process and the associated supply chain, could benefit from updating their code libraries and design by in...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP Integration will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EARP Integration is a passionate software house. Since its inception in 2009 the company successfully delivers smart solutions for cities and factories that start their digital transformation. EARP provides bespoke solutions like, for example, advanced enterprise portals, business intelligence systems an...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Carbonite will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Carbonite protects your entire IT footprint with the right level of protection for each workload, ensuring lower costs and dependable solutions with DoubleTake and Evault.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...