J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Why Teams Fail

Why Teams Fail

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One of the questions I get asked is, “Why do teams fail?”

While there are lots of reasons, here are some of the most common patterns I see:

  • Lack of clarity on the customer
  • Lack of priorities
  • Too much open work
  • Not enough doers (aka ... too many chiefs, not enough Indians)
  • Single points of failure
  • One-man bands vs. teams of capabilities (related to the previous point)
  • No mental models
  • No actionable feedback loops
  • Not flowing value (big bangs that are too little, too late)
  • Out of position
  • Lack of execution cadence or rhythm
  • Lack of pairing, sharing, and mentoring
  • Lack of clarity on the work
  • Lack of clarity on the roles
  • Spending too much time in weaknesses
  • Not spending enough time in strengths

If those are the anti-patterns, what are the success patterns?  Here are some the main success patterns I’ve seen:

  • Teams of capabilities over one-man bands
  • Clarity of who’s doing what when
  • Clarity on the tests for success (what does good look like)
  • People sign up for work (versus assigned … their hearts are in it, and they are fully engaged)
  • People are living in their strengths and are in their element (They are giving their best where they have their best to give)

On pairing up, I've seem magic happen with these combos:

  • Creatives and critics
  • Starters and finishers
  • Doers and describers
  • Maximizes and simplifiers