Hi, my name is Mike, and I am recovering fixer. I’ve spent a great deal of my life taking ownership for and fixing other people’s problems. I used to think this was a good thing, as I was able to make life more comfortable for others. However, there is a price to pay for being a fixer.
Letting the teamwork through a problem
I was once coaching a team in the use of Agile methods. One of the issues the team identified in using Agile was the amount of time it would take to do a code review.
The code review process was mandated and would make it impossible to deliver code every two weeks. This situation created a lot of anxiety for the team as they felt trapped between a rock and a hard place.
I resisted the urge to fix anything or excuse the team’s feeling of being trapped. I could have quickly fallen into old habits and fixed something.
I remember thinking this was an opportunity for the team’s growth. So, I challenged them to work on the problem and find ways to get the time under half a day. There were objections from the team, as they didn’t see a way around the requirement to follow the process.
After several iterations and days, I had a developer in my office excitedly telling me they got the code review time under an hour. I congratulated him and said how impressed I was. I asked how they did it.
He explained all along they were sending emails. The thought of going four rows over and talking to the reviewers was uncomfortable. They were dealing with the anxiety of confronting another group by hiding behind emails.
Through the face to face conversation the team was soon asked, “Rather than sending us the results of weeks of work to review all at once, could you send us your work to review every half day?” The solution was simple and was what we already knew: reduce the batch size.
I later found out the original feeling of being trapped was due to the anxiety associated with challenging any process at this company. In this past, this group had reprimanded and told if they didn’t follow the process it could result in a black mark in their performance review.
If I had gone off to fix the problem for the team, it’s possible they would have continued sending emails and dumping the team’s problems on me. Worse yet, they would not have been able to move through the discomfort of feeling trapped. I would have the lost the opportunity to help this team strengthen…