I like beginning new projects while endings make me sad. Beginnings are full of possibilities. Often the end of a project is the last you will see of the people that you have spent hours laboring over problems, sharing meals, stories and, in short, becoming a team. The day-to-day interactions and frictions that create a team are fundamentally different from hallway conversations or the occasional catch-up lunch. In organizations that dynamically reframe teams to meet the next opportunity, all of accumulated team capital based is jettisoned based on the a mistaken idea that the “thing” that makes a team a team is fungible.
In many organizations that see work and people as an assembly line teams are re-formed at will. The goal of re-forming teams is to deliver efficiently as measured in productivity, or how much of something that can be produced per unit of work. Widgets per hour, lines of code per hour, test cases per month are all expressions of productivity. However productivity as a measure for software development and enhancements can only be used at a project level to measure output and can only be confirmed at the end of the project. Productivity is a measure of output, which reflects the impact of other variables – like moral, methods or complexity. Because productivity is measured at a project level it lacks the granularity necessary to see the dip in productivity that ALWAYS happens early in projects when random individuals are combined into a “team.” This tends to leave the team behind the eight ball. Because this initial slow down is not planned, the organizational productivity and delivery expectations can’t be met without overclocking the rest of the project. This compresses activities, which will cause technical debt and project stress. Technical debt injures the company and the company’s long term perception of IT and the team. Project stress injures the team reducing its productive capacity potentially starting a negative cycle of decline.
First snow, first kisses, first pages of new novels…all are full of possibilities, full of anticipation. We can spin any story that we want though the starting. It is only after the next step that our path begins to be constrained if we assume a deterministic path rather than viewing the past as a sunk cost. We can maximize the possibilities of beginnings by projects with stable teams so that we focus on delivering value rather than reforming linkages and relationships.