Btw. I wonder how many people would associate the quote with the character without the title pic these days ;)

When it comes to team endeavours (projects, etc.), there are few, critical factors that play major role in succeeding ... or failing:

  • shared understanding of the goal
  • aligned priorities & ability to work as a group
  • skills, abilities, knowledge, resources (sometimes more, sometimes less)
  • good will, motivation, ambition, willingness to achieve something
  • etc.

All of them are quite obvious & we can easily imagine their impact on the outcomes of our efforts. But there's one that rarely gets mentioned & sometimes is even totally disregarded:

Team's Belief

Surprised? Belief? What kind of belief & why does it really matter?

Even largest reservoir of motivation, enthusiasm & skill may not be enough to succeed if team members just don't believe in the project:

  • that it makes sense
  • that it's being made the correct way
  • that it will bring any value in the end
  • that it is something they may (in future) feel proud of

Clearly not something you'd like to strive for. (low engagement)
Not something you'd lift a finger for ... (no ownership & sense of responsibility)
Something you don't give a fuck about & you're already starting to hate it ... (natural tendency for unhealthy & counter-productive behaviours)

Interestingly, it looks a bit different (better!) in a pit of doom (where all options are crap, but you pick the lesser evil to improve things gradually) than in situation that may not be that gloomy in general, but you feel like you're forced to follow the path you clearly find significantly worse than some other alternatives (sometimes including option titled: "step away").

Bite the bullet?

That's what many people do:

"OK, I have no faith in this, but it's temporal. Projects come & go. We'll get through that eventually & maybe things will get a bit better then."

So people go forth - for money, because they keep in mind their overall career development targets. They loose self-respect & forget their ideals. Value adding & making sense devaluates quickly & soon nobody minds producing expensive, useless crap ...

Job's done, next please.

But even this disillusionary scenario ain't the worst - producing crap products won't add much value & make you proud of, but at least you'll produce "something" (you don't believe in). What if the team is struggling with something so stupid, ridiculous & plainly wrong that at the first glance it's clear it doesn't even have much chance to get completed at all? Of course protests and appeals to common sense do not have the intended effect because of all the politics & other bullshit.

Surprisingly few leaders / managers can value the options & correctly compare the potential long-term consequences of:

  1. burning out the team with the work that (as people feel, they are not dumb) doesn't make freakin' sense, doesn't lead to anywhere & is D-O-O-M-E-D since the very beginning
  • "Sorry, we're not going for that scenario."
  • "We believe that's not the way to do that, we have an alternative idea you should check out first."
  • "After the internal discussion, we found out that the proposed approach stands out from our standards & we believe we can deliver much more value if you let us."

Doing something you don't believe in, advertising it to your team, bosses, clients - it's just not right at all. Ultimately, for me it's a matter of professionalism, self-respect, engineering ethics & after all - reputation as well.

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

Warren Buffett

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