Once when I was working for a large enterprise, we where taken to an off-site team building program. We where divided into groups of 5 and the group had a task of creating 5 squares out of paper cuttings of different shapes and sizes. Each team-player got a few pieces and the rules where:
- No talking
- You can only give a piece (no taking)
- The game ends when every player has a complete square
The trick in this session was that one team-player got just the right amount of pieces to make a rectangle, that team-player would finish his rectangle and then just leave the game feeling that he finished his part. In may cases the team-player would physically leave and go have a coffee or just to chat with other ‘rectangle’ team-players (normally boasting how they finished first not even considering the fact the they don’t have a square but a rectangle).
The point is that the team as a whole cannot finish its task. In order for every team-player to have a square the rectangle must be dismantled by the ‘rectangle’ team-player (as no-one can take any piece only give) and give away some of his pieces. It normally takes the team a few minutes to understand this but as they cannot talk between each other – they are in a deadlock. The ‘rectangle’ team player is sure that he has finished the task and has switched off, no one is allowed to talk or touch his pieces and most of the time the ‘rectangle’ team player is no where to be found. (Bonus: How can you break this deadlock)
The lesson learnt is that although you think that you have done your job – it might not help the team as a whole to complete their job, you might even delay them!
Although one development team are sure that by using the best process (Agile) they have done there job, they might be delaying the rest of the teams and the company as a whole.
The solution is in Communication. More about that later.