Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Building Team Foundations

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The ancient library of Alexandria is thought to be the birthplace of the modern world.  It was much more than a library – it contained not only vast rooms to hold papyrus scrolls and books, but places to walk, areas to study, places for people to gather and share meals, lecture halls, and a variety of meeting rooms.  It may have also contained accommodations for short term living.  You might think of it as a vast building dedicated to upholding the pursuit of knowledge, the application and growth of wisdom, and the embodiment of what civilization might some day become.  This building lasted for over 300 years before experiencing a variety of attacks.  Nobody knows exactly how Alexandria perished, only that a series of wars, fires, earthquakes, and pieces of history render it a mystery.

All the remains of Alexandria today are some small basement storage areas, probably for custodial services or storage of miscellaneous logistical items.  We don’t know what the rooms were used for.  How strange that a building of such magnificence leaves behind only some miscellaneous remains of minor outlying parts of its foundation, probably rooms designed as off-shoots or side projects to support the major architectural tenets of the building — all of which are destroyed entirely, stolen, or in complete ruin.

Alexandria remains, "The Daughter Library"

Of the variety of QA teams I have been a part, I have been fascinated at the surprising little things that are left behind from teams past.  The archeology of the remains of project history can be an insightful journey into where project efforts once were.  Tiny little cron jobs that run various scripts in the background to maintain archaic systems or forgotten programs, a ticket approval procedure that doesn’t really fit the current business model but is still followed anyway because it’s just how things have been done for so long, or presentation templates that contain hidden gems such as a crashing taxi on the Q&A slide of a powerpoint deck once secretly added by an enterprising intern with a sense of humor.

It’s funny what is remembered.  As you put together your team, you may be amazed at what sticks and what is lost in the ever-moving train of business.  Look to implement excellence in your team’s structure, your team’s set of tools and procedures, but most of all in the development and care of your team members.  People are capable of far more than you can discern as a manager or administrator.  How do I know this?  I know this because we as humans are not capable of discerning the ability of our own minds.  In our imaginations we form constructs without beginning or end, that can go in any direction at any time we wish.  We can construct entire epochs, wars, the growth and demise of civilizations, the solving of great mysteries, the exploration of mountains and worlds and planets — all by just wondering.  The creative process knows no bounds.

Give your team not only the championship of your managerial techniques, give them the championship of your heart.  I’m not saying turn your team status meetings into a singing circle around a campfire, but there is a palatable difference between caring about your team and administering rules about assuming a command. Impressive and non-linear growth can happen when you care about your team as people.  You never know what will remain one day of what you are building today.  Make every project phase count by upholding not only the project’s purpose and vision, but by mindfully building each person on the team.

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