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Stop fighting fires all the time


iStock_000006116697_SmallYou walk into your weekly team meeting expecting the standard updates around the table. Some people are more prepared than others. Not enough information from some, too much from others. Digressions. Side conversations. Devices. One hour turns into two. You sometimes think: “Why do we even have these team meetings?”

After all, everyone touches base with everybody on the team almost daily. There is an open door policy. If something comes up, you let each other know as needed. You talk and e-mail with each other all day long.

Nonetheless, the meeting begins as usual. Until it quickly surfaces that very important Project Q is off track and behind schedule.

It’s not clear what happened. Maybe there was a change in specifications that wasn’t fully communicated. Perhaps a resource constraint got in the way, a technology glitch, or human error? Is there anyone who can be held accountable? Mr. Red has dropped the ball before.

There are a lot of moving parts with Project Q. Now changes must be made throughout, changes that will require rework by counterparts in another group in another department. They will not be happy.

Time, resources, energy and money have been wasted. There is blaming, complaining, explaining. Everything has been harder since the team recently lost its most valuable player, Ms. Platinum. And her replacement, Ms. Bronze, is still not fully up to speed.

You spring into action and the firefighting ensues. You have a series of one-on-one huddles with the team members you know you can count on in a jam. You take over some responsibilities yourself — including begging the counterparts in the other group in the other department to redo their part. There are some quick stand-up meetings and long hours of heavy lifting. The crisis is handled and Project Q is back on track.

When you figure out exactly what happened, there will probably be some very difficult conversations, and there will be consequences. Some people might lose their jobs. Even if Mr. Red is not to blame, it’s about time you really spoke to him about his stubbornly inconsistent performance.

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