Team dysfunctions – Part II – Avoidable problems

While covering dysfunctions in team development, I realized that this subject is worth a second post.

In case you missed the first part, please read Team dysfunctions – Part I. I hope you’ll enjoy reading further on this subject.

Falling in love with solutions — the cruelest dysfunction of all

Let’s face it: we have an urge to OWN the product, which is relevant, but it is equally important not to fall blindly in love with it. Well, shocking news: this very dysfunction is more common than expected.

A product might stop selling well and no longer yield results. You even compromise and change your beloved product somehow, but clients just aren’t happy with it anymore.

And there lies the danger: if we choose to overlook the numbers and cling to our solution no matter what, those clients will leave us. If it comes to that, it may be too late. Stay alert! You may be blindly in love with your solution, and blind love always hurts.

What is the problem that your product solves? Is it an actual problem? Who struggles due to this problem? When does the problem arise? What portion of this problem can your product handle?

Can your team answer those questions? If not, you’re probably “just building a product” instead of solving a problem. It looks like a minor difference, but it is a major business milestone.

A team who is in love with a solution eagerly works towards building a product, period. They want to deliver on the predefined scope, no matter what.

Instead, the team should be passionate about the problem — more precisely, about fixing it. If the product under development can’t solve the problem, the team will let go of it much more easily. After all, there are no attachments or broken hearts. 

Poor rapport is a team dysfunction

Do you enjoy team sports? If you do, you may know that one of the worst things that can happen to a football, soccer, basketball, or any team is a lack of rapport.

The offensive backfield player kicks the ball, and the midfielder has to run like “the Flash to catch it, only to kick it to the side where there is… nobody. If there is poor communication, nothing works.

Score: Team 1 x 7 Problem

Good rapport is vital for any team. Having a safe, calm workplace, flourishing with collaborative people and fun moments is ideal. We suggest working in pairs and hosting DOJOs.

Partial dedication

Let’s think of a person who is perceived as important, and cannot, therefore, dedicate 100% of her time to a single project. This person is very productive, too, so she will take part in two projects.

But, only two projects? Why? “You’re too good for that. Here, step into this third project.” As it turns out, this third project is too trivial, leaving her with the impression that a fourth project clearly needs her input. She gladly jumps in to help. She’s so great. Of course, everything will pan out. Right?

But, then, it doesn’t. Here’s what many companies ignore: The more you multitask, the more time you need to do each task. Having projects running in parallel increases inefficiency.

When we work simultaneously in two projects, we think that we dedicate 50% of our time to “Project A”, and the other 50% go to “Project B”.

Well, that doesn’t happen. First, changing the context eats up some time. As human beings, we need time to stop focusing on “Project A” and gearing up for “Project B”. After all, you need to get updated on Project B’s developments while you were dedicated to Project A.

I really like Todd Herman’s chart (available in this article from April Perry) on time wasted due to changing contexts. Check out the graph below.

Team dysfunctions
Time wasted during context change for people with partial dedication

Todd Herman about context switching.

Besides, no one is 100% at their best every single day. We all have good days and bad days. You’ll eventually need to arrive a little later or leave earlier. After all, yes, we are human beings, not “resources”!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

This proverb became very famous through Stanley Kubrick’s movie The Shining (1980). It translates a critical aspect that may be easily overlooked during our work routines. Our occupations cannot be just a burden that we bear for the sake of paying our monthly bills.

We must have fun while we work! Moments of enjoyment and relaxation are invaluable. Having team lunches, mingling with people from other teams, celebrating birthdays, going for outdoor activities… fun comes in all shapes and sizes. Don’t let those moments slide!

Reading tip: Want to increase the productivity of your company? Give them some breaks!

Team dysfunctions
A scene of The Shining (1980), by Stanley Kubrick.

Idea busters

There you were, enjoying your weekend, and “wham!” In a hit of inspiration, you thought of something great. Monday comes, and you’re eager to share your exciting idea with everyone, as it may result in positive outcomes for the company.

Then, reality and routine kick in hard. No one even stops to hear you out. At best, you’re told: “This is for the future. We must focus on the present.”

Bang! One more idea shot dead. If it happens many times, you’ll think twice about sharing a good idea, because you know it will just get shot dead anyway.

Who wants a team that tramples on ideas? Isn’t it much better to have a team that interacts over new ideas, aiming at building a better outcome? And, if the original idea turns out to be a poor one, interacting about it will organically point that out.

Be careful to differentiate between “innovation for the sake of innovation” and “innovation that yields results.” Going from one edge of the innovation spectrum to its direct opposite can happen relatively easily if one is not mindful of this risk.

No one really wants to be an idea buster, since it will cause the company to stay stuck in time. On the other hand, innovating just for the sake of innovating, without yielding results, isn’t good, either. Short experiment cycles are key to validate the efficacy of an idea.

I think it’s important to keep a balance in things. Yeah, balance, that’s the right word. Cause the guy who wants too much risks losing absolutely everything. Of course, the one who wants too little from life might not get anything at all.
(Tommy Angelo, a character in the game “Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven’” – in free translation into English)

Lack of diversity

 “My wife, Ruth, often said that if a husband and wife always agreed about everything, then one of them wasn’t necessary!”
(Billy Graham)

Having a team where every mind thinks alike and every member behaves the same is, in fact, a great risk. Everyone will share the same perspective, and there will be little room for new ideas to arise.

Having a diversified team is a way to reach better results. Maybe a person is good at having ideas but falls short at executing them.

Other people will be good at executing ideas, assessing risks, team building… therefore, in terms of diversity, the more, the merrier!

Diversified teams are also more resilient, as, once a problem arises, you’ll have people tackling it from differentiated perspectives to come up with possible solutions.

“Leave your egos at the door”

This was allegedly said by the musical producer Quincy Jones when he brought together a musical “dream team” to record the album “We Are the World” back in 1985. The album’s goal was to raise funds to fight hunger in Africa.

And, if the saying was good in 1985, it’s still good nowadays. A team of overinflated egos compromises collaboration. Everyone is always trying to be John, the immortal hero.

In the long run, disaster is bound to happen, since there are too many stars, but not a team. 

While you’re at it, leave your prejudices at the door, too.

When putting together a team, it’s time to let go of any prejudices: au revoir, set of unfavorable preconceptions! Actually, we would all live better lives if we could let go of them at all times.

Let’s spill out the beans: not hiring people because of gender, race, faith, place of origin, nationality, or social background is outright STUPID.

We aim at putting together the best team in the world, and being stuck to intolerance is nothing but an obstacle to this goal.

Would you like to learn more about Scrum roles? Take part in your Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training!



Foto de Avelino Ferreira
Avelino Ferreira

Avelino is a trainer at K21. With a degree in software development, Avelino has undertaken many roles across different organizations: Programmer, Technical Leader, Project Manager, Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Manager.


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