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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

3 Common Reasons Why Teams Fail To Accomplish Goals

Software engineers are always passionate about working on new projects. They get motivated by challenging assignments. They measure their achievements based on how many goals they accomplish.

However, the enthusiasm of the initial days does not last for long. As the project progresses, the team motivation gets lost in the whirlwind of the daily firefights. Among all the urgent priorities, the work towards achieving the goals takes a back seat.

Eventually, significant initiatives in the organizations die a slow death due to frequent diversions caused by everyday happenings.

With that note, let’s look at the three most common reasons that derail software development teams’ growth. You will also learn how to overcome these challenges to build a successful and high-performing team.

1. Not Knowing the Goals

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” — Lawrence J. Peter

Goals define the success criteria for the teams. Each team should have short- and long-term visions. These visions get divided into multiple individual goals, which, when achieved, carry them closer to accomplishing the vision.

However, I have seen members are rarely aware of their teams’ visions and goals. Often, individuals get busy with their day-to-day assignments without knowing how their work contributes to the organization’s success.

There can be many reasons for team members' ignorance. It might be due to a lack of communication from the leaders at the organization level. Or, it can be because of missing enthusiasm from the individual contributors.

Whatever might be the reason, not knowing the goals are a sure-shot way for teams to fail.

It is as if your team is on a boat that is aimlessly floating. Each individual is trying to row based on their self-defined idea of the destination. Even with everyone’s effort, the boat will never reach its actual target.

Similarly, when the team doesn’t know what it is trying to achieve, it fails to accomplish its desired goals.

How to overcome the challenge?

The responsibility of making the team aware of their goals lies with the leaders and the senior developers. To a certain extent, juniors can follow the task assignment process and be done with their day.

However, the leaders and seniors must understand the vision.

If you are a leader, you need to share the goals with the teams frequently. Use the emails, one-on-ones, all-hand meetings, and other forums available to reiterate the goals and emphasize their importance.

If you are an individual contributor, be proactive in learning about the goals. Ask your manager about their vision for the team. Encourage your juniors to understand the impact of their work and how it helps to achieve the goals.

2. Unable To Commit to the Goals

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer

It is not enough to spread the goals across. If the teams cannot commit to them, they will still fail. Hence, once everyone is aware of the goals, the crucial action is to get the consensus and commitment.

Taking the previous example of the team on a boat — after the first step, everyone is aware of the goal. Each member knows the destination.

But there is a problem. Some of the members do not agree that it should be the destination. And a few others do not know what they need to do to reach there. Hence, these people do not want to put effort into moving towards the destination.

Imagine a similar situation in a software development team.

Some engineers will not align with the goal or disagree with the means to achieve them. A few might wait forever to get actionable guidance to meet the goal. In the worst-case, some might even try to influence others adversely.

Having such conflicting priorities will hurt the team’s morale. The misalignment among the engineers will slow down the progress. Ultimately, without the commitments, the team will fail to succeed.

How to overcome the challenge?

Often team members who do not understand the goals or feel their voices are not heard tend to stay away from committing themselves. The leader’s responsibility is to find out why some members are unwilling to put in the effort and rectify it.

Every leader should make honest attempts to discuss the decisions with their team. They should provide a safe environment to clarify doubts and discover concerns. They must guide the team and encourage engineers to present alternate ideas to achieve the goals.

Leaders should also keep an open mind to reevaluate the team’s priorities. They should discuss the goals as if they are sharing them and not giving the orders. It is much easier to get the commitment when the team feels they are part of the decision-making.

3. Lack of Accountability

“On good teams, coaches hold players accountable. On great teams, players hold players accountable.” — Joe Dumars

Now everyone on the team is aware of the goals. They know what needs to be done to achieve them. The leaders put in an honest effort to address team members’ concerns to help them commit to the goals.

But it still does not guarantee that the team will be successful unless they hold themselves accountable for it.

Lack of accountability causes team members to lose focus on their goals. Unless the outcomes are measured and the progress is periodically revisited, the team might feel the priority has shifted. Eventually, they stop putting in the effort even if they committed initially.

Going back to the boat example, now people know their objective and are committed to navigating towards it. But they still need to row the boat to reach their destination.

Until the team achieves the target, each member needs to be responsible for their part of the commitment. They should be held accountable for their actions.

How to overcome the challenge?

There can be several reasons why people might sway away from their responsibilities. Often, these reasons are neither intentional nor because of a lack of commitment.

Hence, saying out loud that the team lacks accountability can backfire.

The prudent approach is first to understand the underlying issues. If you are a leader, find out what is causing the team not to meet their commitments. It can be due to improper planning, unrealistic goals, poor work-life balance, or skill gaps.

Set up a cadence to revisit the progress and measure the accomplishments regularly. Celebrate the milestones. Highlight where the team needs to pull up their socks and ask how to help them do it.

Final Thoughts

Now you are aware of the three most common reasons that make teams fail to achieve their goals. You can follow the above-suggested strategies to help your team avoid failures and achieve every goal set for them.

It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day work. Often burning issues and one-off urgent priorities take over all the attention. They make it inevitable for the team to deviate from their planned activities.

However, a team can never get rid of competing priorities entirely. They are all essential for the short- and long-term survival of the organization.

Leaders need to utilize proven systems to achieve their long-term goals without getting hit by frequent firefights. A focused and mindful approach can undoubtedly help optimize the utilization of the team’s ability without burning them out and be successful.

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