Fostering Team Camaraderie – It’s NOT always about the mission!


Fostering team camaraderie is no easy task. For many, the team leader-member relationship is that of someone who leads and directs and others who follow. Nothing can be farther from truth than that. You can argue that a good leader leads from the front, is empathetic and so on and so forth. But, that’s not what I am here to discuss today.

I am here to discuss how to invigorate, spread and share the same essence of doer ship and direction across the team, to do one’s best to ensure that each team member is touched by it and dwells in that spirit, so that ultimately, the whole team moves in one direction toward one mission. That’s the stuff great teams’ and great organizations are made of. It takes them over and above individual needs and wants, the organizational benefits and aspirations and toward pure execution to attain a unified mission as one team. It’s an experience par any for the proud members of that team which they cherish forever.

Like I said, getting everyone on the team to think like one is not an easy task. Not easy, but definitely possible! While all individuals have different hot buttons that motivate them and it’s the job of the leader to ensure that they are being actively responded to, its these individuals that come together as a team, to act on one unified objective. The leader and the team members have shared responsibility in helping each other align closer with that mission. And that comes about in several forms of interactions from group to individual settings. Not everyone needs to see the big picture but everyone does need to see the picture from where they stand and understand very clearly their part in fulfilling it. At the same time, team dynamics play a crucial part in how effectively a team performs. This is where the unique differentiator between teams lies. Team dynamics is not strengthened, just by focused concentration on the work at hand. It gets stronger and more effective when the team interacts socially and participates in activities besides work. I am not talking about hitting the bar and sharing silly jokes. For some, that might work to an extent. I am talking about doing things besides work that strengthens their bond and fosters mutual respect and awe for each other. This could mean, sharing hobbies and other skills, connecting to discuss and act on social and volunteer projects, opening each other to new avenues and opportunities, thus fostering learning and cultivating new horizons for the team.

This goes a long way in forming true friendships and bonds between teammates. It takes the relationship to the next level where they draw inspiration from each other. It helps members recognize new strengths and skills in each other, allowing them new found respect for their peers. All of this comes through eventually, when the team acts as one and takes on a challenge head on, in not just successful accomplishments, but accomplishments of a greater quality and higher caliber. This elevates their professional interactions to a new level, helps them find better and more capable personalities within themselves, and most important of all, true happiness in what they do and who they work with everyday.

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Quality Assurance – An Impediment or a Necessary Evil


There is a famous tenet that applies to any project, be it tech or otherwise, although it has mostly been heard in the tech corridors for a while now.

If you want a speedy delivery, quality may not be optimal.

But, if the delivery needs to be stellar as well, costs will shoot up.

If you want to save on cost, it may take longer to deliver.

Basically, however you look at it, something’s got to give between cost, time and quality. Apparently, you can’t have all the three.

I beg to differ. It’s an old adage and many a project has been delivered and continues to be delivered in its guise.

I believe projects can and need to be delivered in earnest. In fact that’s the current market ask and if you do not respond to it, what you get to the market may be a tad bit too late to create any demand, for the market expectations have moved on a lot further due to the competition taking over.

Now, does speed really mean more cost? Not necessarily! It’s not about how complex the work at hand is, how enormous a job it is or how many resources will it consume. It’s about how well planned is execution, what kind of strategy and preparation have gone into the plan itself and what options are tapped to execute in an agile mode.

Also, does speed mean less optimal quality? And in order to ensure great quality, do you need to spend more money and need more time? I think that’s just regressive thinking.

Here’s a popular saying in the project management world, “Every birth takes nine months. Similarly, every project needs the time it deserves. You can’t deliver what takes nine months within a month just by adding more resources.”

I agree to the above to a certain extent. Throwing more resources at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it. However, there is a threshold after which certain changes can be brought about, either by induction of the right resources, parallel processing where possible or taking productivity to a higher level by managing the team mechanics to deliver.

Speed to market or deliver doesn’t mean less optimal quality or more cost at all. When it comes to quality, how that’s perceived within the team at work and how it’s executed upon become very crucial. If there is a professional quality assurance team in place to handle that function for a project, then, it’s only viable if the scale of the project demands it. In such situations, it’s important to ensure that the whole project team clearly understands the precise objectives of the quality assurance team. From requirements gathering to the architecture design, every function has to be focused on simplicity and speedy delivery. Developers have to be on top of their game to ensure cutting edge code is going out and the quality is checked within their realm, before it goes out the door. QA should be more focused on functional review to meet market needs and push the envelope for a speedy delivery. If the team works in this fashion, orchestrating in high productivity modes, miracles are possible where costs are kept under control, and a high quality product reaches the market on time.

However, the truth of the matter is that, in more cases than not, the quality assurance team ends up being a gatekeeper for the work churned out by the development team and that’s where the issue rests. A top-notch development team should not need a quality assurance team behind its heels cross-checking each line of code being churned out. The development team should be accountable for what they deliver and should be proud of the job they do sans the quality team. The quality team, as I said before should be just focused on ensuring the market gets what it demands. In fact, their work should be non-existent.

And the day, we get there with minimalistic or non-existent quality teams, would be the day where cost and time also do not have as much bearing on projects and what gets delivered to the market. The best part, neither the creator nor the consumer would have any apprehension as to the product that has been put out in the market.

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Exit Route – Exercise Your Choice!


John is on his way to the office one morning. He gets on the 3 lane interstate. In another 2 miles, he would need to take the exit toward his office. He notices that the right most lane is cordoned off a long way since there is some construction activity in progress in that section of the interstate. The other 2 lanes to the left seem congested with all the out flowing traffic. The inner lane is moving slow while the outer lane is somewhat fluid.

If you were John, what would you do?

Since its only 2 miles to your exit, you could stick to the inner lane and drift with the traffic until you reach your exit. Between your exit and where you currently are is an intermediate exit that has incoming traffic flowing onto the interstate which could be reason for further congestion and slow moving traffic. It might take a little longer, not sure how long, but you will get to your exit eventually. Perhaps, the safest option in this congested state.

Another option is to watch for an opportunity and get on the outer lane which has traffic moving a bit more fluidly. You would need to be alert and cautious as you move through this lane and eventually shift to the right lane when you get closer to your exit. You need to be watchful of finding that opportunity and space between the trail of vehicles on your right in time, to not move over too soon to get stuck in the slow moving lane and not too late to miss your exit. At the same time, you need to be careful of not causing an accident in this already congested traffic.

Why am I going through this; about something as simple as driving on an interstate which we tend to do subconsciously everyday.

This simple task translates into something as profound as managing your career or even your entrepreneurial venture! It’s amazing how closely our day to day lives reflect lessons that can be applied to our actions in canvases larger than us.

In everything you do, whether being on the job and seeking to be successful at it or pursuing success in a project taken up or an enterprise you set up, risk in an integral part. What determines the level of your success is the amount of risk you take and come away managing it skillfully.

In the example given above, John has the less risky option of just being in the inner lane and following the traffic to reach his exit while he watches to maintain his distance between the vehicles in the front and back, but the pace of movement is totally dependent on the traffic in that lane. John has no control on that pace. If the traffic sits for an hour before he inches towards his exit, that is what it is.

On the other end, he takes a risk by getting into the outer lane. While he has to watch out for the vehicles in the front and rear as he maintains his position and moves along, he also needs to be watchful of the traffic in his right lane to judge where he is in relation to his oncoming exit. He needs to make the correct judgment about moving into the traffic in the right lane. Entering too soon or too late would defeat his purpose.

Although, there is a little risk and the need for being more alert in the second option, it would be the ideal one for John if his goal is to reach his exit sooner than later. The time saved by not being stuck in the traffic might be well worth it, but needs some quick decisions and deft execution by John to make it possible.

Of course, there are unknown risks, one of which is an accident upfront, which could slow down the outer lane too. In such cases, John would need to look for other options or go with the one that works best in the situation.

Similarly, in our lives and in everything that we do in our careers as employees or as entrepreneurs, there are options. You need to determine what the end goal is and based on that, make assessment of what path to choose to get there. Risk is inevitable in every thing you do. You can take the risk averse option but, be prepared to not be in control and do not expect much to happen or you can decide to take a calculated risk which with some ingenuity and exertion on your part can ensure you great success!

What kind of a person are you? The one who takes the inner lane and lets the traffic determine when you reach your exit or the one who gets on the adventure of the outer lane and makes it happen while pulsating with the excitement of controlling your journey to the exit!