On Monday March 22, 1998, Larry Froistad posted a message in a chat room used as a support group for people battling alcoholism. In his message, he confessed to purposely getting drunk and setting his house on fire thus killing his daughter. More than 200 people were online to see the message. Many were outraged but some came to Froistad’s defense and claimed that he was “experiencing a fantasy driven by guilt over his divorce.” After a debate, three people out of 200-plus reported the incident to authorities. Froistad confessed to the murder on March 27, 1998. – wikipedia


I was recently involved in a discussion that went along the following lines :

Xavier: i raised any issue in the standup last week and nothing happened

Team: [team look at shoes]

Xavier: why didn’t anyone do anything?

Team: [team look at shoes]

Xavier: well that really bit us in the ass!

There is a really challenge when working with a self organising team to ensure an issue gets attention. You often see this manifest its self in other forms too:

  • no one rushes to fix a broken build
  • code coverage is poor

These issues all fall into a similar category. No one persons responsibility!

One of the few take aways from my freshman psychology 101 course was a study from  Latané and Darley who described a social phenomenon where individuals will not respond to a cry for help when other people are present. they went on to determine that help would be give based on 3 factors:

  1. whether the requester was deserving
  2. their own competence at resolving the request
  3. their relationship to the requester

The 3 factors raise some interesting thoughts about why the issue raised by Xavier wasn’t picked up.

Firstly, was Xavier deserving of help? Could the team be considering the issue something he should have resolved himself.

Secondly, did the team members have the skills, experience or influence to be able to solve the issue. It would be unlikely that someone would step up from the crown to take on a challenge the has no idea how to complete.

Finally, does Xavier have a good rapport with the team? from the dialogue above  it maybe seems a little Parent-Child rather than peer to peer.

There has been a lot of great work coming out of google recently that builds on Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions that concludes that good relationships between team members are the key to successful teams. Building a good relationship should be high on Xavier’s todo list before he raises more issues.

A great litmus test is to:

  1. Take a sheet of paper.
  2. Write down the names of the people in your team.
  3. Next to each name with the name of their spouse and offspring.

If you couldn’t complete step 3 you don’t know anything important about your colleague. Make it your mission this week to find out.




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