The Boom Years and Team Dynamics: What Not to Do

The dot-com boom offered some valuable lessons in team dynamics, but also some cautionary tales.
Flexibility, Not Ramping Up Innumerable were the times we heard the words "ramping up" in conference-room presentations during the boom. Everyone wanted to be ready for the mass adoption that was to come. People would soon be buying all of their dog food, shoe insoles and Valentine's Day cards online! On a team level, this meant that any and all tasks were urgent, crucial to the bottom line and equally deserving of manpower.

Lesson: If any time was spent with focus groups, flexibilities built in, or contingencies prepared, much time and money would have been saved. Effective teams do a great deal of work in the planning stages of a task to ensure that the proper amount of resources is devoted and that contingencies are planned. When expansion is needed, building out in a smart and flexible way reaps rewards in the long term. Leveraging people from other teams in the company or bringing in freelancers can save you the time and expense of hiring, especially if the task is finite or has an uncertain future.

Feedback Isn't Always Positive There was a tendency in those days to always put your best face forward. It was a heady time, and can-do people were at a premium. When you're goal is a huge IPO, there's no time for naysaying or conservatism. That way of thinking diffused all the way down to the team level. Everyone was always "doing a great job" and things were just peachy, until the investors stopped footing the bill. With teams built out larger than the task required, and all projects on the front burner, managers couldn't keep up with evaluating their teams and giving useful feedback.

Lesson: Lack of constructive feedback doesn't allow team members to grow, learn from mistakes, or understand what is expected of them. When smart employees aren't challenged in this way, the pleasure of not having to catch hell from your boss only lasts so long, then boredom and lack of fulfillment set in.

Happiness is Long-Term Startups at the turn of the 21st century largely dealt in immediate gratification. The thought was that happy employees are productive employees. While there is certainly merit in that idea, where many employers were wrong was in the notion that employees happiness somehow revolved around foosball, arcade games and Waiters on Wheels.

Lesson: Sure, all of those things are nice, but most people go to work in hopes of being part of the production of a great product, having their skills appreciated and utilized, and developing along their career path. Benefits serve the purpose of providing peace of mind, health and comfort in the workplace. Once that's achieved, money and time is better funneled toward assessing how team members see their career path, recognizing achievements, and providing avenues for development. Mentoring, leadership opportunities and kudos will go a lot further than a masseuse and a Pac-Man machine.