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As promised in my previous post on Better IT, in this series I will be talking about collaboration. Today I'm sharing with you anti-patterns in collaboration.

Anti-pattern - Things you shouldn't be doing because they get in the way of success in your work, or your organization's efforts.  Antonym of "pattern."

In my troubled project turnaround work, when I start to talk about collaboration, I usually get many eye rolls. People think we're going to start doing team-building exercises, install an arcade game, and initiate hourly group hugs. (Not that these would be so bad.)  But most collaboration missteps I see are the result of anti-patterns that show up in how teams work. So in this post, let's look at the not-so-great-things that will get your team and your organization into trouble.

 

IT admins who don't know who is responsible for what, or can't find them

This is often the case in geo-diverse teams, spread over several time zones, and teams with a high staff turnover. Their processes (their "pattern") is to go on a "responsibility safari" to find the person and their contact information for a resource. On one project, it took me almost a month to find the person, who lived on another continent, who was responsible for the new networks we were going to deploy to our retail locations. By the time I found him, he was planning on moving to another company within a week. Having to hunt down people first, then their tools, then their data, is both costly and time-consuming, which delays one's ability to resolve issues. Having to find people before you find data is not the right way to manage.

 

IT admins who collect duplicate data about resources and their metrics, often in difficult to integrate formats and units of measure

This is almost always the result of using a hodgepodge of tools across teams, many of which are duplicate tools because one person has a preference of toolsets. This duplication of tools leads to duplication of data.  And many of these tools keep their data locked in, with no way to share that data with other tools. This duplication of data and effort is a huge waste of time and money for everyone. The cost of incompatible tool sets producing data in incompatible formats and levels of granularity is large and often not measured. It slows down access to data and the sharing of data across resource types.

 

IT pros who want to keep their data "private" 

This dysfunction is one my friend Len Silverston calls "data mine-ing," keeping data to yourself for personal use only. This is derived from the fact that data is indeed power. Keeping information about the status of the resources you manage gives you control of the messaging about those systems. This is a terrible thing for collaboration.

 

Data mine-ing - Acting in a manner that says, "This data is mine."

- Len Silverston

Agile blocking is horrible

A famous Agilista wants people to report false statuses, pretend to do work, tell teams that "all is good" so he can keep doing what he is doing without interruption. He also advocates for sharing incorrect data and data that makes it look like other teams are to blame. I refuse to link to this practice, but if you have decent search skills, you can find it. Teams that practice blocking are usually in the worst shape possible, and also build systems that are literally designed to fail and send their CEO to jail.  It's that bad. Of all these anti-patterns, this is the most dangerous and selfish.

 

IT admins who use a person-focused process

We should ensure that all of our work is personable. And collaborative. But "person-focused" here means "sharing only via personal intervention." When I ask them how they solve a problem, they often answer with, "I just walk over to the guy who does it and ask them to fix it." This is seen as Agile, because it's reactionary, and needs no documentation or planning. It does not scale on real-life projects. It is the exact opposite of efficiency. "Just walking over" is an interruption to someone else who may not even manage one of the actual resources related to the issue. Also, she might not even work in the same building or country.  Finally, these types of data-less visits increases the us-versus-them mentality that negatively impacts the collaboration success. Sharing data about an instance is just that: data. It's the status of a set a resources. We can blame a dead router without having to blame a person. Being able to focus on the facts allows us to depersonalize the blame game.

 

Data will save you

These anti-patterns don't just increase costs, decrease team function, increase risk, and decrease organizational confidence, they also lead to employee dissatisfaction and morale. That leads to higher turnover (see above) and more pressure on good employees. Having the right data, at the right time, in the right format, will allow you to get to the root cause of issues, and better collaborate with others faster, cheaper, and easier.  Also, it will let you enjoy your 3:00 ams better.

 

Are there other anti-patterns related to collaboration that you've seen when you've tried to motivate cross-team collaboration?  Share one in the comments if you do.