February 10, 2011
In Linked Segments I worked hard to be succinct. In doing so, I actually squeezed the life right out of the blog post! Rather than rework it directly, I am attempting to metaphorically add milk, stir, warm, and thus reconstitute the soup rather than a leaving a congealed glob of condensed puree. :*)
I have worked with technical project teams spanning a few to many members . It’s easy to work with a few members – priorities and progress are easy to update – it occurs naturally in the hallway, across cubicle walls, and informal team meetings. It gets more challenging when there are more than about five (5) team members AND when one (or more) is not co-located – the fluidity declines to the viscosity of……..condensed soup!
I could make a list of many reasons why it becomes harder, but I believe the primary one is that with greater visibility (more team members) there is a tendency toward declining informality. Members feel pressure (internally?/externally?) to share only polished work stemming from personal struggles to maintain control and dignity (see my reference to Roger Martin’s work at Technical Complexity). So sharing frequency declines – we wait for members to fully analyze their data, prepare a slide deck, and then present at the next team meeting. These effects mitigate the efficiency and productivity gains of larger groups, because they slow progress down.
Gaining trust and reciprocity that facilitates frequent informal exchange is much easier in smaller groups because protective cliques form readily in small groups. Yet, gaining trust and reciprocity is not impossible in larger groups; it just requires forming a protective tribe – really. This is where the newer ESSP (Emergent Social Software Platforms) have a role. For example, in mid 2008, I began participating in Seth Godin’s online community, Triiibes. I was blown away at how effectively Seth created a large online community that allowed each of us to grow professionally – no polishing required. My blog post On Triiibes celebrates the 1st anniversary of that community and the value that it created — truly amazing!
Two of the very best primers on the subject of forming a tribe:
- Great Boss Dead Boss by Ray Immelman (note: although the title is unappealing, it is an excellent book!)
- Tribes by Seth Godin
When I realized that large organizations (agri-business, pharma, and medical research) were beginning to use larger work groups to increase efficiency and productivity (segment and specialize) I felt compelled to crystallize my most important insights. Unfortunately, my efforts to distill the essence left a blog post with the consistency of solid goo! I hope this greater context makes Linked Segments more readable. 🙂
My long-view message:
- Team members need to feel protected and valued.
Better? Your feedback is welcome and appreciated!