FRAMEWORK FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAMS

TORNADO MANAGEMENT

There are so many things out there the team needs to get done! New urgent topics emerge every day. And the team is simply too slow to finish all of them on time! The folks on the team are really not productive enough.

To make sure that at least some work is done, team leader puts pressure on the team members. Team leader knows, that without being pushed they will keep slacking. Moreover, it takes them ages to understand what has to be done and why. But the team leader just can't waste time on endless explanations, as she also does as much work as possible herself.
How does this anti-pattern impact the team?
Impact
Team members do not have the time to reflect and improve their ways of working or quality of the solutions. Constant context switching leads to the chain of quick-and-dirty fixes. That results in a code base that is extremely hard to work on. Tired of firefighting, people burn out and leave for a better work environment.

This anti-pattern impairs the ability of the team to Learn and also to Deliver in the longer run.
How can you spot this anti-pattern?
Signals
-"We have an emergency every day.."
-Team leader is noticeably overwhelmed.
-Team members describe the state of affairs as "constant senseless emergency".

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 say: "Once the team leader came back from holidays, the team did more in two days than in the whole previous week."
Patterns
On the level of patterns we can observe the following: "Team leader is constantly disappointed with the engagement and productivity levels of the team members."
Systems
On the level of systems we can state that "By putting a pressure on the team members, team leader achieves temporary increases of productivity. However the engagement in the team stays low and burnout builds up over time. At the same time no learnings are made about the root cause of unsatisfactory productivity, and it stays not addressed."
Mental Models
One of team leader's mental models that can contribute to the Tornado Management anti-pattern is falling back into the familiar role of an individual contributor. Team leaders can feel extremely uncomfortable observing that other team members are not working with the same speed as themselves. At the same time they might lack coaching tools in their toolbox, that can be used to support the team members in their professional development. In such cases team leaders often try to do as much work as possible themselves, and put pressure on the other team members rather than support the team in learning to become more productive.

Written by Aleksandr Zuravliov

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