Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, David Paquette, Liz McMillan, Olivier Huynh Van, Mark Hoover

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
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Your business relies on your applications and your employees to stay in business. Whether you develop apps or manage business critical apps that help fuel your business, what happens when users experience sluggish performance? You and all technical teams across the organization – application, network, operations, among others, as well as, those outside the organization, like ISPs and third-party providers – are called in to solve the problem.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Kubernetes and Google Container Engine Workshop, being held November 3, 2016, in conjunction with @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This workshop led by Sebastian Scheele introduces participants to Kubernetes and Google Container Engine (GKE). Through a combination of instructor-led presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on labs, students learn the key concepts and practices for deploying and maintainin...
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service. In his session at 19th Cloud Exp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
While DevOps promises a better and tighter integration among an organization’s development and operation teams and transforms an application life cycle into a continual deployment, Chef and Azure together provides a speedy, cost-effective and highly scalable vehicle for realizing the business values of this transformation. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, a Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, will present a unique opportunity to witness how Chef and Azure work tog...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...