The fundamental determinant of success on most projects and at most companies is teamwork. Volumes have been written about how to foster teamwork. My small contribution is to suggest that each of us, when part of a team, keep three fundamentals front of mind – simplicity, accountability, and humility.
In everything our team does we all need to embrace simplicity.
- How can we keep our team to the smallest number of people possible?
- How can we make our objectives as straightforward and clear as possible?
- How can we solve each problem as simply as possible?
- How can we keep our language and communication as simple and understandable as possible?
- How can we be sure that our product or process can be understood and used by the customer or colleague who will use it?
The more we add complexity to any project, the more we add ambiguity and confusion. Keeping everything as simple as possible allows tasks and projects to be completed and implemented. We can always make things more complex later.
Every good student in high school or college dreads group projects. Why? Because in any group, there are always 1 – 2 students who don’t do what they say and don’t carry their weight, requiring the good student to do far more than their fair share of the work in order to get a good grade on the project.
Unfortunately, this happens in business as well.
Any successful team requires that everyone carry their weight and live up to their obligations to the team and each other. Far too often, team meetings involve re-hashing work that should have been done by one of the team members and then re-adjusting the task or project schedule to account for the delay that person caused by not fulfilling their commitments. Without a high level of accountability and each team member doing what he or she says, the task or project gets delayed or lingers incomplete.
To have great teamwork, we all need a healthy dose of humility. Humility allows us to truly listen to and learn from the person or persons that are actually doing the work. With humility, we realize that we do not have all the answers and need to go out and seek the answers from someone who does know. This humility is reflected in the world of lean (and Zen Buddhism) through the catchphrase to be a beginner.
“Be humble: ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.’” Shunryu Suzuki
Finally, humility ensures that the team is not overrun by the HiPPO effect. The HiPPO effect, so common in the tech industry and with consultants, is where everyone listens to and blindly follows along with the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, even when the HiPP does not know what they are doing.
Constant reminders, either on a weekly basis or at the start of team meetings, of the importance of simplicity, accountability, and humility will keep these three keys front of mind and help integrate them into a successful team dynamic.