Development Team Membership : Part 3 – Competition

There is a thin line between healthy and unhealthy competition.  Competition can lead to self-improvement, which is great, but it can also be detrimental.  Slow down, ask yourself a few questions:

Who are you competing against?

Competition in the Animal Kingdom is a natural instinct, see tongue in cheek Lion King example.  Competition to be King helped no one in this instance.  As humans we may feel pushed to tackle those ahead of us in whatever hierarchy situation we may find ourselves in, but we’ve also been blessed with the presence of mind to make a more informed decision about how this will impact those around us.  In a team situation Collaboration normally trumps Competition.

What are you competing for and how?

It’s worth getting clear what it is you are competing for, this will be clear in a race where you have defined parameters and a clear understanding of the rules.  The same is not true of the workplace where you may be competing (silently) against other people for a promotion.  It’s easy for this situation to become unhealthy competition.  An unhealthy way to approach this is to belittle others achievements in order to make your own more pronounced.  Best case here is that you get the promotion, but your new “team” will know what you did to get there.  Impressing through your own abilities, and respect for others is a more noble route to the same thing, there’s no real shortcuts here.  It’s good to point out your own successes, but don’t try to tread on others, again, see Lion King.

Does anyone win in your Competition?

Competition can be a catalyst for self improvement, if you’ve picked the what and the how well.

Who can write the most lines of code in a sprint?

Imagine this competition, what are you really achieving?  No one wins in a headbutt!

Team Dynamic

Motivation is really closely linked to Competition in many ways, but it can also be a bit of a minefield when it comes to competition within teams.  Everyone has their own goals, but it’s great if these personal goals can align with the goals of the wider team.  I’ve previously mentioned the idea of letting go.  Losing the mental baggage that unhealthy competition carries will let you focus on bettering yourself.  I’ve recently been doing this exercise myself.

2 thoughts on “Development Team Membership : Part 3 – Competition”

  1. Competition is a very 80s management style – create division to spur everyone on. Far too much Glengarry Glenn Ross. There’s a couple of great women I’ve heard taking about this subject, and how bad managers inadvertently, or sometimes deliberately, create competition and drive teams to optimise for the wrong thing. I’d definitely recommend listening to the Punishment Driven Development interview on .Net Rocks, or this talk https://www.infoq.com/presentations/punishment-development and having a watch of the perverse incentives talk https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Learning-and-Perverse-Incentives

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    1. Thanks Craig, I’ll have a look at those links, I heard the interview on Hanselminutes on Punishment Driven Development, it’s an interesting topic.

      Liked by 1 person

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