Image credit: Chris Demers
In last week’s post I briefly recapped our pitch practice run. What I didn’t acknowledge was the burnout I experienced once the pitch was over.
I’ve had a long weekend away from course work (and from my desk) to process, reflect and take respite. At the time of writing this I feel like my focus is returning, but up until yesterday evening I was considering stepping back from my studies. I toyed with the idea of deferring the next module, taking 12 weeks to focus on my family and my mental health.
To fully recover from this exhaustion, I must unpick my team’s and my weaknesses, and take action to avoid the same scenario in the future.
Here, I should define what successful teamwork might look like. For which, I quote Carol Wilson’s (2021) definition of Tuckman’s fourth stage of team development, performing:
“The team is now a powerful engine running with all its cogs turning. Plenty of healthy
conflict, of the type that does not damage the fabric of the relationships, is interspersed
with fun and humour. Successes almost seem to create themselves; the leader and
team members have learned to give their very best then get out of the way.”
Of everything in this passage, the phrase “plenty of healthy conflict […] interspersed with with fun and humour” stands out to me. The conflict in my team has been so sparse, that it is difficult to recall a single example. If there is any interspersion involving fun and humour, it is that fun and humour has been interspersed with talk about our work.
I wonder, have I mistaken a friendly and positive (but otherwise undirected) dynamic with a high-functioning team dynamic?
I think Patrick Lencioni’s (2002, 216) fifth dysfunction applies here; inattention to results.
“the ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.”
If there is anything I feel we are lacking, it is a focus on objectives and outcomes. In a post for Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Knight (2016) details a set of practices to boost productivity and keep people from burning out. Four of these suggestions lend themselves to a solution I have in mind: set goals, clarify expectations, encourage open communication, and give team members autonomy.
I believe I may be able to promote each of these through better backlog management. I have recognised that our Task backlog in Microsoft teams is not being referred to – by myself, as much as any other team member.
If we commited to using a project planning tool, goals and expectations for each task could be laid out without ambiguity, every task would have a defined space for open communication, and team members would be empowered to select the work they take on from the backlog.
I would be naïve to assume that moving from a to-do list in Microsoft teams to a seperate project planning tool would solve our dysfunction alone. The project’s objectives (and our work’s requirements, therein) need to be fully defined. Our backlog needs to be maintained, and our sprints need to be directed by a team member.
I have made the decision to step back from all UX work for this module, and instead focus on project management. I think this shift in focus will help me invigorate my team, and avoid another crunch period in the run up to our final submission for this module.
I’ll monitor my team’s performance in the weeks to come.
KNIGHT, R. 2016. ‘How to Boost Your Team’s Productivity’. Harvard Business Review [online]. Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/01/how-to-boost-your-teams-productivity [accessed 23/08/2021].
LENCIONI, P.M. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. 1st edn. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 216.
TUCKMAN, B.W. & JENSEN, M.A.C. 1977. ‘Stages of small-group development revisited’. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419-427.
WILSON, C. 2021. ‘Bruce Tuckman’s Team Development Model’. Culture at Work [online]. Available at: https://www.coachingcultureatwork.com/bruce-tuckman-team-development-model/ [accessed 23/08/2021].