Rob Mee, CEO of Pivotal Labs, wrote a blog post on “7 Myths of Entrepreneurship and Programming” that contains a great reminder on how to achieve team performance under pressure: training (excerpt below has emphasis added)
Myth: Looming deadlines necessitate shortcuts.
Many software teams use the excuse of a high-pressure market and the need to ship product right now as an excuse to do shoddy work. Writing tests goes by the wayside; careful design is forgotten in the rush of frenzied hacking.
But software teams are no different than other teams we’re all familiar with, and the way high-performing teams succeed is not to lose their cool: on the contrary, when the pressure is on, you stay frosty, and let your training carry you through. How many times have we heard stories of remarkable performance under unimaginable pressure – whether it be military, professional sports, or a pilot landing a plane on a river – and the explanation almost invariably involves the heroes saying, “We trained for this situation.”
Realistic training and rehearsal is the key to managing a high level of challenge and outperforming your competition.
- Rehearse presentations, find a proxy for your real audience to provide tough questions.
- Decide in advance what steps can be omitted from a process when you are up against a deadline, and what steps can absolutely never be omitted.
- Share drafts of important e-mails, presentations, and brochures before you send them.
- If you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee, a client, or a partner find one or more people whose judgment you trust–and who will tell you if you are making a mistake–and rehearse it.
- Apply the concept of ‘dress rehearsal’ to situations that will require improvisation, apply a ‘fire drill’ model to situations where key steps must be taken in sequence against a critical deadline.