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Tip #5 For Managing a Cross-Functional Team


(How to herd a group of cats, cows, sheep, goats, dogs and llamas….)

Meetings Don’t Waste Money, If They’re Done Right

Often in a meeting someone will count the number of people there, multiply by some number and come up with a cost then declare the amount of money ‘being wasted.’  It’s certainly possible to waste money (salaries) having people in a non-product meeting.  It’s easy!  Meetings are sometimes called “the practical alternative to work.”  AVOID THIS.  Don’t do this.  Have well-run meetings. 

How?  With Team Rules

Create a set of team rules!   The rules don’t have to be detailed, they shouldn’t come close to resembling a “Roberts Rules of Order.”  Our teams typically had about 8 or 10 rules.  We would post them on the wall of the meeting room.  Again, if you are meeting virtually, the same thing can be done.  Everyone can print out the meeting rules tape it someplace, or put it on their desk.  Whatever.  But actually seeing the rules written down in front of everyone is important.

Here’s a photograph of a set of rules from a very stressful turn-around project.  If you can see it, the last rule was a fine.  We’d fine people $1.00 if they were late for meetings – these funds were later converted to liquid and consumed by all.

A slightly edited version of our rules are

  1. Neatness doesn’t count; accuracy does
  2. If in doubt, write it on a big piece of paper
  3. Bad news is good; good news is great!
  4. Truth is permitted
  5. Keep your charts / status up to date at all times
  6. Don’t roll over or give up
  7. Read the charts!
  8. Stay focused
  9. All meetings are held here – on time!

Shout Them Out

We shout these out if someone violates a rule.  For instance, our mathematician might say: “Whatever… I can do what you want, if you really want to do it that way.”  Everyone will shout out “RULE 6 VIOLATION!”  as loud as possible.   I must admit, I’ve been called out for “rule 8 violation” several times…

Rule number 4 sounds odd.  “The truth is permitted.”  This means that team members can say things you wouldn’t normally hear in meetings. “I’m late getting that done.”  Or, “This is never going to work.”  “Our solution is awful!” The only correct answer from the team for someone speaking to Rule 4 is “THANK YOU.”   Then, the team starts working on solving whatever issue just came up. 

There’s harmless humor in every situation

In any project, epically difficult ones – humor helps.  I’d like to refine this a bit to say “harmless humor.”  One fellow on our team was late for a meeting and arrived sweaty.  He promptly took off his tie and threw it on the floor.  “What’s wrong with you?”  It turned out he was shredding papers and got his tie caught in the shredder – while he reached everywhere to find an off switch.  From that day on, we awarded the tie to people for “lack of attention to detail.”  Later, the goat tie tack was added for an extra honor.   Everyone loves it.  Except perhaps the prize winner.

Mindreading doesn’t work

This one is pretty simple.  If you think the rest of the team should hear it – SAY IT.  It’s surprising how often teammates (who speak a different technical language) assume the rest of the team knows what they’re thinking.

Continual Questions

Part of the project leader’s job is to dig in to find problems.   The problems are then scheduled for “demolition.”  To find problems, we always, always ask the following questions

  • What would ruin your plans?
    • Make me cry!  Make me very, very sad.
    • (Or, bad news is good)

Whatever it that makes the Project team cry must be dealt with.  The worse it the problem is – the better we like it, so “bad news is good.”

  • Are we fooling ourselves?
    • Maybe we’re all just agreeing
    • (Group think)

Another favorite question, after all is  settled and we’re ready to move onto doing “work” as opposed to “meeting” is “are we fooling ourselves?”  “Are we drinking our own bathwater?” This is a conscious effort to avoid the DEADLY enemy of group think.  Nearly nothing is worse for a team than “group think.”  There are many examples, many documents, many books on the topic.  But, from personal experience I can tell you – it can KILL.





Posted by David Maynard on: September 21, 2016 04:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

- Buddha