This team leader was not doing her job

I came across this story on Roy Osherove’s blog (via Laurent Bossavit on the AYE Wiki).

Roy describes his experience solving a technical problem that took longer than expected:

After showing this to my team leader and getting a fairly lukewarm response I headed home for the weekend. When the start of next week came I was seek and when I came back two days into the week my team leader asked to see me in her office.After I sat down she said:

“While you were away Me and another person from the team were talking about your work and we were wondering if there wasn’t a better way to solve the problem than the way you solved it. So, when the week started we sat together and found a different way. It took us about 2 hours. It is simpler, it takes about one tenth of the time your solution takes and it’s totally quiet.”

Needless to say I was shocked to hear this. There I was, slaving away at a solution for almost 3 weeks, and they go and find a much better solution in 2 hours without even telling me….

Roy draws some lessons about the responsibility around communication for both team members and leads.

I agree that both team leads and team members share responsibility for communication about status, new information, and roadblocks.

And it doesn’t happen by accident. Team leads and managers need to put the structure in place to enable and ensure that communication happens.

If your a ScrumMaster or XP coach (or it fits for the way your team works) use a daily stand up to find out what’s happening.

Ask these three questions:

What have you accomplished since the last meeting?

What do you plan to work on in the next period?

What’s getting in your way?

If you’re managing a team, hold weekly one-on-one meetings. These are private meetings were you meet with each team member to track progress and uncover obstacles.

In a one-on-one you can coach, too. In a similar situation, I would have suggested that the team member come up with at least three candidate solutions and present the pros and cons of each before diving in. And I would have set a trigger to review whether the work was taking longer than anticipated so we could reassess.

If Roy’s team lead had been using either of these techniques (or even stopping by for a significant conversation) the situation wouldn’t have gotten to the point it did…. and Roy wouldn’t have been hung out to dry.

Johanna Rothman also has a post on making progress visible here.

More on one-on-one meetings here.