Why Things Don't Work In Your World
A very common reaction for developers to have when they hear about new technical approaches or new approaches to team organization is "yeah right, that won't work in the real world" or "that'll never work in our situation". A lot of us have felt that way. I certainly have as well a few times in the past. The 2 most common excuses you'll hear for not believing something can work are:
- The people I work with aren't good/talented/disciplined enough to make this work.
- It can't possibly work in our organization.
The truth though, is that it's actually because of you. Whenever you say "that won't work for us" or something similar because of the people you work with, you immediately show your lack of faith in them. You might think that that lack of faith is justified, but that basically means you've given up all hope of making things better. You know it, and worst of all, they know it too. People who aren't trusted by their coworkers or superiors generally pick up on that rather quickly. Some of them will respond by putting in more effort and trying to do better. Others will become demotivated and wonder why they should even try because "it's never good enough anyway". At this point, your lack of trust in your coworkers becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You might want to consider another approach. Think back on how you've responded to situations where you where challenged by coworkers or superiors but where it was clear that they trusted you and believed that you were capable of doing a better job. I'd bet that for most of you, it improved your motivation and your willingness to do better. It probably helped you bring out the best in you. You can use this to your advantage when you're trying to get better results out of your coworkers. It's quite simple really: it's all about how you approach someone. If you want somebody to do better, and you approach them in a positive manner you're much more likely to get better results. If however, they sense your distrust (and most people pick up on that quite easily), they will most likely be defensive or apprehensive. The odds are quite low that something good will come out of that.
If you want people to improve and do better, it's important to establish a culture where everybody knows that it's ok to make mistakes, and that every mistake is an opportunity for the whole team to get better. If that's not the case in your situation, what is preventing you from trying to get to that point? Even if you're not officially in a leadership position, there's no reason why you can't set the tone and be a leader. Start making an impact on one or two people and build off of that growth. Once you've got a few people convinced, it's much easier to bring the rest along with you. You don't need to shoot for the stars from the beginning either. Try to improve whatever it is you think needs improvement with small steps, in an iterative approach. Instead of thinking "that will never work for my team", think "we're not quite ready for that yet, but we will be someday".
If you believe you can't improve your way of working due to organizational reasons, it's important to also start with your team. It's easy for management to ignore the opinion of one person, but it gets progressively harder for them to ignore it as more and more people start asking for change. It's much easier to persuade management to try something new if you can show that the whole team believes it's worth a shot. Keep pressing the issue until you get the chance to try it for a short time. If you keep asking for it, management might just get tired of hearing it and who knows, they'll grant you some time to try it out. You'll never know if you stop trying.
Of course, you won't always succeed in convincing management or your coworkers. But you've gotta try. And if you keep hitting walls, you might actually be better off moving on to another job with other people instead of being frustrated in your current position. Even if you don't agree with what I'm saying in this post, you can't possibly disagree with this: not trying will get you nowhere.
Written by Davy Brion, published on 5/13/2012 8:50:36 PM