Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve been playing this on-line game. It’s a MMORPG (I can’t believe I remembered that whole thing) and I play a priest in a guild of mages, fighters, archers, etc. What I find entertaining about it is not the game-play, but the collaboration that is necessary to make the game work. Ok, so I haven’t actually played in 6 months, but here’s the basic story: Within the game, there are what are called “bosses” or really crazily hard to kill monsters. One of these we have killed a total of 4 times, the only times that this particular boss has been killed. It took about 50 people close to 5 hours just to take down this boss. To do this, there is a single guy who stands in front of the boss and hacks away at it for the entire time. My wife finds this totally implausible since he should die in about 4 seconds, but he’s backed up by about 25 priests who heal nonstop for literally the whole 5 hours.Then you have a set of archers who are shooting arrows at this thing for the whole 5 hours, and then the fighters who are running in every few minutes to hack away and then running back out so they don’t die. Then there are even the “junior” members of the guild who are allowed (even forced) to sit around and watch how the whole thing is orchestrated so they can learn for future generations. (for the record, I refuse to participate in anything that takes more than 15 minutes)
The total amount of cooperation and coordination that it takes in this game and games I have seen on TV is absolutely amazing. If only the same level of coordination occurred in project teams. We don’t always assemble the right people, the right skills, and we don’t collaborate and communicate in a way that is sustainable for the entire project.
First of all, not only do we need the right people on the team, but we also need diversity from the organization. Skills are important because at the end of the day we need to execute projects and the skills, experience and knowledge is absolutely critical. But at the same time, pulling resources from different parts of the organization is the beginning of change management. If you pull together the right team, not only are you going to execute well, but you’ll begin the adoption process. There is a significant difference between choosing the right representatives from around the business and getting people for political reasons. I’ve seen too many project teams who have individuals that don’t really add any value and can’t participate in a change capacity, but they are there only because someone thinks they “should be.”
Second, Put people in for whom the project is a stretch goal. If you get people who are excited, willing to learn, and have a solid background, you’ll be training your next generation of project team members and expanding your pool of useful people for the future. All employees ask for (generally) is the opportunity to grow, but we often give cool projects exclusively to the time tested veterans. it’s ok to plug a few more junior associates into a project so long as they get the necessary guidance.
Third, maintain open communication. In this game I play, we can chat in the game, and we often also log into voice chats so people can shout out commands (like “wake up!”) or requests (like “heal me”). Most of it is fairly entertaining because it is after all a game. But sometimes you need to execute commands and the team can’t be afraid to ask or receive instructions. “Collegial” is nice, but many projects are too political and members from different factions can’t express themselves. The result is that unspoken works become nuances that are missed by the audience. This is sometimes hard to avoid, but you tend to miss actions or even milestones when you just can’t communicate.
It amazes me how a group of 20-somethings can plan and collaborate not only over a 5 hour period, but continuously over months and months performing activities that requires skill, role alignment and considerable governance. It is equally surprising that they have no idea they are doing it. But this is the next generation of employees, and they do have skills if they can be translated from a fictional activity to a real workplace one.