The Costs of Creating Constant Crises — and an alternative

I’ve been on teams that are constantly in crisis mode.

At first, it’s exhilarating! There’s urgency, clarity, challenge – a chance to shine!

But what happens when the crisis is over?

People lull about. Nothing much happens. This is of course the natural comedown from a stressful big push. You have some dopamine withdrawal, and you need some quiet activity to recharge.

But what happens when you add another crisis? Or the crisis extends?

People get fatigued. And they get tired.

And then something worse happens.

When they do get a break, they’re so broken down that they don’t get much done on their own. They start to occur to themselves as ineffective and powerless, which leads to a lot of ineffective powerless actions (or lack of action).

“What difference does it make anyway? Even if we start owning our work again, there will just be another crisis.”

Recreating Ownership

The truth is, there will always be crises. Out there.

Someone else will always be panicking and freaking out.

But what about your team? How does your team respond? Does your team create a crisis?

Or does your team accept the situation as it is, evaluate it, and take calm and deliberate action?

The team needs to find a way to still make progress even when crises are happening everywhere else. To use the pressure to build systems to keep things under control even when it’s hard, and to focus on the outcomes not just for the organization, but for the team itself.

The team is building not just the software, but the team’s own capacity as individuals, as a team, as part of a delivery pipeline. And the team should build something it loves being a part of.

If you want amazing results, you have to stop creating crises all the time, and create ownership instead.

If a crisis doesn’t result in increased ownership, and a stronger team on the other side of the crisis. you have misused the crisis you have created.

Every crisis should result in a team that needs fewer crises to perform, and therefore does not create them for itself, but instead grows and improves in a way that doesn’t lead to disempowering stories for itself.

If you are able to use the crisis you create for your team to make a team that doesn’t need the crisis, then you can create a team that drives instead of being driven.

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