In my last post, I introduced Challaboration as a core team value. A second
core value is learning. Within this are two elements: being
adaptable and courage.
technology, business environments all change.
A person (and by extension, a team) will have limited success solving
new problems only using past solutions.
If you are unwilling to adapt and don't have the courage to find help from others, you will not expand your set of
tools to solve problems.
When you explore new
approaches and tools, you learn. For
example, around 2011, my company made a reasoned decision to shift some of its
product stack from .NET to Java. Quite a
bit of our team (who we hired as .NET
developers) were faced with a choice: continue as .NET experts or become
Every developer made the transition.
It would have been
easy to leave. After all .NET is the
dominate programming platform in Nashville. Because they chose to adapt, they
expanded their toolkit (learning a new language and front end technology). It was a tough road. In the beginning, we
wrote a lot of C# code masquerading as Java.
Over time, the team grew into first-class Java developers.
By adapting, the
developers learned a valuable lesson:
Their excellence is based on their critical thinking and design skills,
not language competency. More
not to define
themselves by the technologies they know.
Our team is a mix of
veteran and junior developers. We have
experienced healthcare providers and seasoned QA who have never provided direct
patient care. You would think the knowledge
flows from the "older" to "younger" generation. That is far from the case. Junior developers show veterans how some of
the new technology stack functions. In
turn, veterans share hard-fought learnings from years of production software.
What our team has in
common is not knowledge or skill level.
It is their courage to say, "I need help" or "I don't
know." This simple acknowledgement
creates the possibility for learning.
The dynamics of
healthcare IT demand constant learning. A willingness to adapt and the courage
to ask for help creates an environment where everyone learns from each
other. As a team, we adapt to changing
demands and have the courage to rely on each other to learn how to solve
problems. In other words, we win and lose as a team.
Some teams seem to
consistently end up with better decisions.
downplaying individual contributions, I believe the way the team brings
ideas to life (or kills them) matters most. It isn't about starting with
more good ideas. It's about creating
a culture where good ideas are refined and bad ones are eliminated
quickly. In other words, they have a
better Bad Idea Filter, and the means to make mediocre ideas good (or great).
I've found two factors to influence idea quality: challenge and collaborate. They are blended; so much that my team
coined the phrase Challaboration.
practically everything.If you propose
an idea, you will defend it against technical, business, workflow, and visual
design critiques.One person is unable to consider a variety of
consequences, barriers, and alternative solutions.A team of people with varied experiences can. If the idea cannot be defended, then it doesn't survive - even if it is mine.
solution paths explored, the resulting decision is more resilient. It draws from improvements to address
previously unforeseen aspects of the problem, while minimizing weaknesses (or
at least making them known).
If challenging is
behavior, then collaboration is motivation. Team members receive and provide
critiques to the idea, not the person.
This isn't about scoring points; the desire must be to reach the best
decision the team can make. When I
challenge a design, I do so to make it excellent. I want the other person and
the team to be successful. Thus, I
The motivation for
the critique matters. If the motivation
is to increase quality results, better ideas emerge.
If the motivation is to show personal intelligence or to score points,
bad decisions slip through. Worse yet,
idea generation itself shuts down.
Your team gains confidence as they struggle with criticisms and pursue alternatives. When external groups and customers provide input, frequently it has been considered in depth. Your team is prepared to acknowledge inputs
and explain how they were considered, enhanced, or rejected. In turn, your team's confidence provides
confidence to the customer.
Challaboration is a
core value of our team. Each person has
a responsibility to assist in crafting a better solution. They also have an obligation to identify weak
ideas and prevent them from harming the team, product, and customers. These are key, since our team doesn't start
with more good ideas than most teams. It
just has a pretty darn good Bad Idea Filter.