Malcolm Gladwell mentions an example in his book “The Tipping Point” that when the number of people who can act in the scene increases then the number of people who will act will decrease considerably. My observation on this has been very similar when working with project teams, I guess that is almost everyone’s observation as the big ball of mud is often noted in the codebase of large teams. Gladwell says that people are lot more sensitive to their environment than they seem. It is no surprise that the retrospective prime directive says
Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand
It is so surprising that how an individual would never do something alone will do that when doing it as a group or vice versa. Brain (mind) also keeps growing beyond the physical growth and can reach very high levels of maturity over the course of years. An writeup on Constructive developmental theory by Peter Pruyn predicts that around 58% of the population is stuck at the maturity level “Socialized mind”. At this level of maturity an individual’s alignment would be to conform to the local group leading to the perception of belonging to a clan. The fear of exclusion will drive most of the individual’s action. It is sort of a phobia which will prevent people from moving to higher levels of maturity as mentioned in Constructive developmental theory.
What can we do to remove this fear?
One inspiration I drew was from this ted talk. In this talk, David Kelley mentions about Guided Mastery, a technique derived from the works of Albert Bandura. Using this technique people with a specific fear get away from that fear by slowly building up the confidence; stepping up the challenge in small increments where people get used to the fearful activity but not at the level which is overwhelming. Some more info about that technique is here. In a team setup mostly people find it hard to take up a task of fixing something or letting their peers know that something is wrong and we need to correct. The reason people find it hard is because of the fear of being wrong and getting rejected. By making sure and enforcing the fact in the team that no one will be penalized just because s/he was wrong or blew a whistle; also getting the new comers feel very comfortable with this style of communication in a phased manner.
I enjoyed the transformation I went through as a team member in such a team, it definitely turned out to be a high performing team.