Monday, 8:22am: You arrive at the office and the 31 Post-It notes on your computer, phone, and desk remind you of the misery you left on Friday. You’re trying to do a hundred things at once and there could never be enough time, money, or people to accomplish them all.
8:37am: You get a coffee and start organizing the Post-Its into a to-do list.
10:14am: You finally get through your emails and dive into the work.
1:00pm: You sit down at your regular seat in the weekly team meeting. The morning has given you some confidence that you have a handle on your plan. The room goes dark, the projector powers up and the PowerPoint slide says it all. The team leader has decided to take a new tack. He changes the priorities and changes the game. It’s hopeless.
3:00pm: You try to move forward. You meet with two teammates to talk about how to approach the new initiative. You share a couple of ideas. “We’ve already tried that.” “That’s my area.” “Pablo would be pissed if you stole that from him.” Every inch of ground you cover is already claimed as someone else’s turf. You can’t think of anything to say except, “THEN WHY HAVEN’T THEY DONE ANYTHING ABOUT IT??”
4:30pm: Cross-functional team meeting with people from across the company. You enter with your head down, embarrassed. You know that your team hasn’t added much value lately.
5:10pm: Something wonderful happens: a crisis. Your biggest customer threatens to move all their business, there’s a fire in your Distribution Center, the competition launches their new product to rave reviews and your response was scheduled to be months away. Any crisis will do.
Suddenly, instead of a hundred priorities, there’s one. The resources that were so hard to unlock a week ago are flowing freely. The people who were staking out their turf are collaborating and cooperating. The spineless and conflict-avoidant boss is finally assuming a leadership role. This is fantastic!
The team comes through with flying colors. The CEO sends an email to the whole company thanking your team for the extraordinary effort and brands your boss a hero. Your team interactions are great. You’re all proud of what you accomplished together.
And now your team has had the first “hit.” What you do next will decide your fate. Will you become a Crisis Junkie team?
In my next post, I’ll talk about the pervasive crisis addiction I’ve seen in my work with teams.