Part 1 of 3: How to Lower Team Performance

The Agile Manifesto changed software development. Reconciling that with the real world has some interesting mis-matches. This is the 1st of several observed in the laboratory of life.

The Agile Manifesto was put together by a set of Americans and a couple of Englishmen. Arguably, they have some homogeneity, contrasted with have women or someone of a vastly different cultural background. It’s natural these guys would feel it’s reasonable to have strong opinions, discuss at reasonably loud levels, work independently, take even small risks, etc. Somewhat fitting in the notion of a traditional John Wayne role model.

Gert Hofstede created a set of cultural dimensions that allow the comparison of national cultures. This work is used by many folks working in international domains. We are all familiar with the notion of faux pas’s that just make you look like a total dummy when assuming your behavior is OK in all countries.

So do you have anyone on your team that comes from another country? How do they compare to yours? This website: http://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html has a comparison tool for these cultural dimensions. Consider how your team members may or may not mesh on the dimensions assumed in the Agile Manifesto. The Manifesto relies greatly on personal conversations & interactions, not documents & emails.

Consider quiet folks, such as introverts. Some cultures are considered to be introverted. (I’m of 100% Finnish ancestry and arguably fit this category.) Let’s consider a quote from Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain:

“Many Asian cultures are team-oriented, but not in the way that Westerners think of teams. Individuals in Asia see themselves as part of a greater whole — whether family, corporation , or community — and place tremendous value on harmony within their group. They often subordinate their own desires to the group’s interests, accepting their place in the hierarchy.”

Not the cultural emphasis on harmony: this quiet behavior may be interpreted as introversion by rough & rowdy Americans. Americans tend to be impatient and will have “elevated” conversations to quickly resolve to a solution. We don’t mind directly challenging each other and having to respond in kind. Folks such as Jack & Susy Welch have written that successful teams must be candid with each other. In their opinion, honesty is critical for team success.

So here’s the ‘so what’: what are you going to do about the cultural impedances that retard your teams performance?

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Part 1 of 3: How to Lower Team Performance

2 thoughts on “Part 1 of 3: How to Lower Team Performance

  1. Great observations. To add to your point, American Culture is very much about “me” and less about the whole. While we have had leaders who try to emphasize that “it takes a village,” American ideals are still about individuality and not about the unit.

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    1. Yes, American individuality (freedom) has moved the needle more than any other society. I think the focus on individuality keeps wanton spending and corruption in check. Just a political response…

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