organizations that don't.
But, again, we've got to be careful with the ski slope analogy; the language barrier was overcome easily because the resuscitation procedure needs a common process more than it needs a common language. Many would argue that software projects have enough difficulties when using just one spoken language.
A friend recently worked on an off-shored project where the local team spoke English, all of the offshore developers spoke Mandarin, and their local representatives, who spoke English and Mandarin, translated between the two camps. He told me that the decision to use standard UML diagrams that every developer understood overcame many of the spoken language difficulties. He was adamant, though, that it would have been far more productive if everyone spoke the same language.
Strong Projects Have A Sense of Urgency
The ski slope team immediately organized itself into roles without needing orders. The respiratory doctor was the most senior medic and had the most relevant experience so she naturally took the leadership role. She and the nurses delivered chest compressions, the dentist helped with mouth-to-mouth ventilation, and the student nurse searched for help and a defibrillator.
Have you noticed how well-managed emergencies bring out the best in people? My first taste of management came when I was asked to temporarily manage the recovery of a project that had gone off the rails. The project was finished following an aggressive schedule and without overtime. The project was handed to me with built-in urgency and a clear goal--to save our bacon. Just like the ski slope team, we quickly organized around the goal, with people voluntarily picking up tasks that needed to be done even when they were outside their specialties. Each of us on that team performed way above the normal expectations, purely because the exceptional circumstances required us to.
The good news, if you are a manager, is that you don't need wait for an emergency to create a sense of urgency. Instead, if work with your staff to establish clear, concrete medium-term goals, give them good tools and then manage them with a light touch, then your people will often create their own sense of urgency.
Strong Projects Build Relationships
Finally, there is one huge difference between the ski story and strong software development projects. Once the helicopter left the ski slope, the ad hoc team parted, with the individuals unlikely to meet again or even to meet the man whose life they saved. Good software projects concentrate not just on the software output by the project but also on the quality of the relationships established during the project. As individuals, the project becomes a single line on a resume, but it's the quality of the relationships with which you leave the project that sets you up for successful future projects.