I seem to be getting inspiration from police departments lately. Stick with me, it is just a phase. Over the past six weeks, my city has been hit with a greater number of burglaries and robberies than normal. This rash of crime caused our small community to push our elected officials and police department for answers and accountability. To meet our needs for more information, the police chief agreed to meet the neighborhood at a monthly community meeting. The chief not only came with a few of his lead staff, but was also joined by representatives from two adjoining police departments. Since criminals do not see borders, the three police forces have come together to stop the crime in our area.

What sparked my thought for a blog post was the willingness of the three police departments to share evidence and plan their approach to stopping the crime as one—not three separate—entities. If you know anything about police work in the United States, you know jurisdiction is typically a line that does not get crossed. Information is not shared freely between police departments. The attitude has historically been we will deal with our cases and you can deal with yours. If a crime was committed in our jurisdiction we want to catch them and convict them.

A similar attitude can be found on project teams. In many corporate environments individuals have the attitude of boundaries around one’s role. I’ll do my job, you do yours. The goal of individuals is doing their job well. If they do their job well then they think they are OK. If someone does not do their job well then it is their fault. The same is true from project team to project team.

What my local police and the other departments did is decide to focus on results and remove ego. The police departments don’t care who makes the arrest, just as long as the arrest is made. They shed a lifetime of a “this is how it has always been done” attitude and came up with an approach they think will work to address the goal. As a tax payer (stakeholder) I applaud my police department for looking for better ways to address our current issue. I think better of them for using this approach rather than one of isolation, even if they caught the criminal(s).

You and your team members have to do the same. Forget about titles and focus on the goal of the project. Your focus should not be about you. Do you think your stakeholders care if the business analysis was done well and the project failed? In the end all they care about is the project results taking care of their needs. They want you to do a good job, but more importantly, they want their issue resolved.

Most likely your teams are decided for you. You don’t get to pick and choose all the people you want to work with. The skills of the team members will include programming, business analysis, project management, quality assurance, database administration, subject matter expertise, etc. Your team has to come together and outline the tasks required to meet the goals of the initiative. Together the team needs to assign tasks based on expertise of each individual regardless of title. The team needs to be accountable for delivering a successful solution. In the large scheme of things, doing well on part of the project means nothing. A perfect example of this is if the business analyst does not have direct responsibility for project scope. If they just take the scope as is and don’t make sure there is a clear understanding of the business goal to be addressed, they are a bad team member. The fact that they did a great job with the functional analysis gets discounted if it was based on a bad scope. This may result in the true project needs not being met. A failed project and an individual failure.

This can’t happen without a culture shift and redefining how the team is rewarded. The days of collaboration are here and they are here to stay. Specialized work is still needed in some areas, but not all. Team members need to be rewarded for team results and behaviors that produce successful solutions. With my team I try to be clear on the goal of an initiative then leave it up to the team to determine the best approach. I reward open communication, collaboration, taking risks, the “I’ll take that on” attitude, failing fast, and owning up to mistakes. Smart, passionate team members truly collaborate, perform, and show results.

Don’t define yourself and others by their job descriptions. Focus on being a high performing team member and not just a high performing Business Analyst.

Communicate. Collaborate. Succeed.

– Kupe

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