FRAMEWORK FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAMS

DOGGY-STYLE MANAGEMENT

Work with your team the same way, how you play with your dog: don't give them much context, or involve them in the decision-making process. Don't waste time on product or technical onboarding. Just throw them a task, and expect them to run after it and take over.
How does this anti-pattern impact the team?
Impact
Borrowing terminology from the Cognitive Load Theory originally developed by John Sweller, Information Technology professionals face three types of cognitive load at work: intrinsic, extraneous and germane.

  • Intrinsic cognitive load is related to the complexity of the task itself (adding two numbers is easier than designing a database structure).
  • Extraneous cognitive load is generated by the environment in which the task is executed, e.g. making sense of a new code base or following a complicated deployment procedure.
  • Germane cognitive load refers to the learning efforts that make work easier. For example learning about the domain area and customer needs helps the contributors to make better implementation decisions and make sense of the new feature requests faster.
Eliminating extraneous cognitive load, providing sufficient domain knowledge and allowing contributors to focus on the intrinsic complexity of their tasks are the essential steps towards high performance.

In case of the Doggy-style Management anti-pattern, throwing team members "in the cold water" without proper onboarding increases extraneous cognitive load. As well providing little transparency on the context and thought process behind product decisions limits the ability of the contributors to design the implementation that addresses customer needs in the best possible way.

This anti-pattern impairs the ability of the team to Deliver.
How can you spot this anti-pattern?
Signals
-"You don't need to know this."
-"I have to explain every single detail, otherwise nothing gets done right!"
- Priorities are not clear for the team members.

These signals are the "red flags", that indicate it is worth taking a closer look to check whether the anti-pattern is present.
Let's review this anti-pattern on different levels:
Events
On the level of events we can state: "The current release can not be used by the customer because of an obvious logical flaw in one of the workflows."
Patterns
On the level of patterns we can observe the following: "Team members often spend a long time on making sense of their tasks and start working on the implementation late in the Sprint."
Systems
On the level of systems we can observe: "Assigning team members ad hoc tasks helps to put down the fires. However context switching and lack of domain knowledge requires contributors to put an extra effort every time to complete these tasks."
Mental Models
On the level of mental models we might find out that the team leader doubts the competences of the other team members, and therefore leaves them the role of purely technical executors.

Written by Aleksandr Zuravliov

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