IPMA International Project Management Association
18 November 2020 / 9:00

Insights into our hackdays no. 2: Let us discuss the evaluation of our team mindset, culture and atmosphere during the hackdays

We participated in the hackdays or hackathon that was organized during the 8th IPMA Research Conference in September 2020. Following the conference, our team conducted a retrospective on our hackathon-experience, in which we collected and discussed our learnings and experiences. During the hackdays, we shared these experiences, our “Ups” and “Downs”, our “Do’s” and “Don’ts“, in a contribution. After having dealt with the topic “Mindset, culture and atmosphere for self-organization”, we also discussed our team´s mindset, culture and atmosphere within our retrospective and in this article, we would like to explain our personal views and in addition, the experienced team performance. We will demonstrate how we evaluated this.

When we collected and discussed our learnings during our review, we concluded that each team member was able to perceive two variables during the hackdays that might describe our mindset, culture and atmosphere: 1) One’s own, individual mood and 2) The perceived team performance. This became clear when we met, talked and worked during the hackdays. On the one hand, the following sentence is an example concerning the individual mood: “Yesterday evening I was so exhausted and simply not in a good mood”. On the other hand, we were able to perceive a high team performance during the last hackathon hours when we completed our explanation video. Based on these two variables, our team lead introduced an evaluation scheme (see Table 1).

The variables are plotted over time. The time scheme was structured into the days of the hackathon and intensive working days were broken down into smaller time ranges, for example into morning, noon and evening. Each team member rated the two variables with regard to the defined phases of the hackdays, for example for “hackday 1, morning”.

Even though the hackathon started on “hackathon day 1” which was September 9, 2020, some of the team members started the teamwork in advance. It was the time, when our project leader was selected, the topic was chosen, and the work was organized and planned.

As you can see in the evaluation scheme, we rated the first variable, our individual mood, between 1 and 10, whereby 10 represents the best individual mood. In figure 1, you see our individual moods. The second variable, the perceived team performance, was rated between 0 % and 800 %, whereby 800 %, in our case, represents the highest team performance. Let us explain why we work with more than 100 %: The performance of each team member counts 100 %. As we were a team consisting of five team members, the sum of our individual performances is 500 %. If the estimated team performance is rated 500 %, it means that everyone achieves 100 % of their own performance and these individual performances are summed up. We presumed everybody’s performance equally. However, at 500 %, we do not yet have synergy effects. Synergy effects emerge in the area above 500 %. We are convinced that in teams, one can experience effects that are more negative if each member performs by its own. For example, conflicts in teams can cause team members to feel weaker or more insecure at the end of the teamwork than they did at the beginning, or discussions cause stress, to find a common mindset. This is often a fact during the storming phase of the team building process described by Tuckman (Oswald et al. 2018). We observed this within the first hackday at the evening.

Figure 2 draws our perceived team performance. As you can see on the first day and on second day, we created synergy effects. At the beginning, our performance was low, during day 2 high, and at the end, our performance goes down sharply.

Figure 1: Individual mood of team members (authors)

Figure 2: Team performance perceived by each team member (authors)

The evaluation of our team experience shows a correlation between individual moods and the estimated team performance. Although individual mood variations were experienced during the last hackathon hours, when we experienced time pressure to complete our result, each team member was in a good mood and we perceived the highest team performance. The whole team experienced on a collective level synergy effects or so called emergence. This word stands for a very new collective property. We were happy, generating this emergence as a team during the hackdays. It is also striking that after delivering our result, the video, and after the final presentation, the mood of each of us decreased. Nevertheless, we got back on our feet; we agreed to do the retrospective and agreed on the goal of writing a white paper about our topic. Furthermore, we were impressed by what we had learned during the hackathon and agreed to share these learnings and experiences – obviously, our team is still working. In our whitepaper, which we will publish during the next weeks, you can learn more theoretical background about our work.

In addition, there are other interesting questions to consider in order to improve our team performance: Why started team members with such different moods? What helped team members to overcome bad moods, in which some of the team members were, for example, during “hackday 1 morning” and “hackday 1 evening” (see figure 1)? Maybe we need more hackathon experiences to answer these questions, and definitely more teamwork we look forward to!

Sonja Armatowski, Pia Herrmann, Maximilian Müller, Norbert Schaffitzel, Reinhard Wagner

Further reading:
Oswald A.; Köhler J.; Schmitt R. (2018): Project Management at the Edge of Chaos. Berlin, Springer

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