How to sabotage your teams in 5 simple steps

Agile Coaching, Leadership.

May 05, 2023  ·  Harry Tucker

Agile Coaching

Are you tired of endless articles and books about how to create strong and healthy team cultures, cultivating environments where individuals have the support and freedom to do their best work, or tips on building high performing teams? If you answered yes to at least one of the above, then I have the solution for you!

Through countless hours of practical experience seeing team cultures destroyed from the inside, I have curated a list of the top 5 things you can do to ensure that your team can be as ineffective and toxic as possible.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any actions inspired by this article that may cause contemplation, self reflection, or mutinies.

1. Reward people that contradict your values and principles

After spending an inordinate amount of time crafting and refining your team values, principles, and behaviours, ensure that you don’t waste any time holding people accountable for aligning with them. Instead, spend up to a year ignoring them so they are largely lost from the collective memory.

Next, look for the people that regularly undermine and contradict what you’ve agreed on, and ensure those people are publicly rewarded and promoted into positions of leadership. Elevating them above hardworking team players is an important step in building resentment and disengagement among the rest of the team.

2. Say yes to everything

In the classic film ‘Yes man’ starring Jim Carrey, the philosophy of saying yes to everything demonstrates the amazing life experiences you can have by just saying yes. My memory of the film is a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure it all worked out fine and there were no downsides to his experiment.

With this undeniable proof of the power of yes, try saying yes to everything that is asked of you, whether it's your team, your manager, or your customers, and watch the magic unfold. I’m sure that you too will experience the power of yes through inviting every demand imaginable onto your plate and juggling the expectations of everyone you gave your word to. You’ll thank me later.

3. Change priorities as often as possible

You may have heard that we live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), which can be interpreted as replacing sound business and product strategy with a constantly changing priority list of things for teams to work on. Changing these priorities at least every few months, or on a shorter timescale if possible, will create a need for constant status reports, steering groups, and the illusion of progress.

If there is any pushback from teams on the obvious inefficiencies and waste that this way of working produces, remind them that this is what it means to be agile and adapt to changing business needs.

4. Fight complexity with more complexity

It may be tempting to think that as systems and organisations grow in complexity, there is a corresponding need to create structures, practices, and processes to provide teams with smaller and simpler domains to work in. However this runs the risk of cultivating an environment where teams can thrive with a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Instead, as your organisations systems and teams grow you need to match this with increasingly complex frameworks and structures to retain a sense of control and order. The sacrifice of autonomy, ownership, and effectiveness among teams will be worth the sense of comfort you will feel in knowing everything is under safe governance.

5. Ensure everyone is busy. All the time

During the industrial revolution, principles of scientific management were developed to optimise the utilisation of resources (people) to ensure factories and factory workers were operating as efficiently as possible to produce as many widgets as possible each day.

Despite the seismic shifts in how many of us work over the past century, we can continue to apply these principles to 21st century technology companies and teams by maximising resource utilisation (keeping people as busy as possible). Orchestrating and coordinating work among teams to ensure that there are little to no gaps in the schedule for reflection, learning, or working on things that will make the team's life easier in future. You may need to hire more project managers or create a project management office to support this effort.

I hope that these simple steps will help you on the journey to making your teams and organisations slow, ineffective, and extremely unpleasant environments to work in. Do any of these resonate with your experience? Have you perhaps been in environments where one or all of these behaviours were present? As a perpetrator of all of these at one point or another in my career, I've learned the value of admitting and sharing my mistakes. If this sparks some memories from your experience, feel free to share your stories from the trenches. It might be therapeutic.

Beastie Boys - Sabotage (1994)

Categories: Agile Coaching, Leadership.