Click here to close now.

Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Lori MacVittie, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Microservices Expo Blog, 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
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding bu...
DevOps Summit, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development...
"AgilData is the next generation of dbShards. It just adds a whole bunch more functionality to improve the developer experience," noted Dan Lynn, CEO of AgilData, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
The basic integration architecture, as defined by ESBs, hasn’t changed for more than a decade. Most cloud integration providers still rely on an ESB architecture and their proprietary connectors. As a result, enterprise integration projects suffer from constraints of availability and reliability of these connectors that are not re-usable across other integration vendors. However, the rapid adoption of APIs and almost ubiquitous availability of APIs amongst most SaaS and Cloud applications are ra...
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, 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 ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Infrastructure & Services will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Infrastructure & Services (SIAS) is a managed services provider of cloud computing solutions for the IBM Power Systems market. The company helps mid-market firms built on IBM hardware platforms to deploy new levels of reliable and cost-effective computing and hig...
"We help to transform an organization and their operations and make them more efficient, more agile, and more nimble to move into the cloud or to move between cloud providers and create an agnostic tool set," noted Jeremy Steinert, DevOps Services Practice Lead at WSM International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
The most often asked question post-DevOps introduction is: “How do I get started?” There’s plenty of information on why DevOps is valid and important, but many managers still struggle with simple basics for how to initiate a DevOps program in their business. They struggle with issues related to current organizational inertia, the lack of experience on Continuous Integration/Delivery, understanding where DevOps will affect revenue and budget, etc. In their session at DevOps Summit, JP Morgenthal...
The time is ripe for high speed resilient software defined storage solutions with unlimited scalability. ISS has been working with the leading open source projects and developed a commercial high performance solution that is able to grow forever without performance limitations. In his session at Cloud Expo, Alex Gorbachev, President of Intelligent Systems Services Inc., shared foundation principles of Ceph architecture, as well as the design to deliver this storage to traditional SAN storage co...
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises ar...
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect t...
"We provide a web application framework for building really sophisticated web applications that run on a browser without any installation need so we get used for biotech, defense, and banking applications," noted Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit (http://DevOpsSummit.SYS-CON.com), held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York
In the midst of the widespread popularity and adoption of cloud computing, it seems like everything is being offered “as a Service” these days: Infrastructure? Check. Platform? You bet. Software? Absolutely. Toaster? It’s only a matter of time. With service providers positioning vastly differing offerings under a generic “cloud” umbrella, it’s all too easy to get confused about what’s actually being offered. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Kevin Hazard, Director of Digital Content for SoftL...
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world...
"What Dyn is able to do with our Internet performance and our Internet intelligence is give companies visibility into what is actually going on in that cloud," noted Corey Hamilton, Product Marketing Manager at Dyn, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies drivi...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of...
IT data is typically silo'd by the various tools in place. Unifying all the log, metric and event data in one analytics platform stops finger pointing and provides the end-to-end correlation. Logs, metrics and custom event data can be joined to tell the holistic story of your software and operations. For example, users can correlate code deploys to system performance to application error codes. In his session at DevOps Summit, Michael Demmer, VP of Engineering at Jut, will discuss how this can...