Coaching, leadership, People, Project Management, Team

Everything I needed to know about teams I learned from Dungeons and Dragons #PMOT

It occurred to me that the five key principles of teams that I learned early on were taught to me at an early age by Dungeons and Dragons. Now I’m not talking about any movie or video game knock-off of Dungeons and Dragons,  but the original Dungeons and Dragons in-person game. You know the one with the 20-sided dice and the Dungeon Master’s screen with the awesome red dragon on it? It even got better with Advanced Dungeon and Dragons with all the extra Monster Manuals – but I digress.

Here are the five principles I learned about good teams that I learned from Dungeons and Dragons

1) Have a diverse team

Early on it became very apparent how ineffective an entire team of Magic-Users were. I mean all we get to do is to roll the darn 4-sided die and strike with a dagger? That sucks. Ditto for Fighters and not being able to have cool attacks from a distance. To be able to get great treasure and defeat the cool monsters we need a diverse team with diverse races to take full advantage. Ever try to defeat a dragon with just a team of Halflings? enough said.

2) Have diverse team members

I must admit there are two vivid memories I have from my childhood. The first time I tried pizza and when I discovered multi-class characters. I mean it just blew my mind. You mean I can fight with a sword AND cast spells? Sign a brother up! That was the coolest thing in the world. I immediately became more powerful as I could do different attacks based upon the need of the situation. And when everyone on the team became multi-classed and we could as a group change to fit the situation? Nothing could defeat us.

3) Nothing replaces experience

I mean the gold was great and the magic items rocked. It was also great to collect all these things and trade and buy more, but the only thing that really mattered was getting experience. As I was predominantly a Magic-User, I became very aware how the level 1 and 2 spells sucked ducks. (Shout out to Troy Westwood on Banjo Bowl  Weekend) I mean the early spells were very limited, but when I looked at the latter spells I could raise the dead and have a Finger of Death? Now that was cool. Nothing replaces experience.

4) Seek out the Druids

I must admit early on I never saw the value of Druids. I mean commune with nature? Heal? That was kinda interesting, but did we really need a tree-hugger in our group? I mean we were all about hacking and slashing and pillaging. It was only later I looked at the druids as team members who would not only help all other members of the team, but as people who already had placed the needs of the environment and others ahead of their own. These were people who had empathy and concern for their teammates. They were willing to make the sacrifice for the greater good. I must admit, I really respected Druids for this. They traded their individual aspirations in and could not use a sharp-edged instrument at all. Mace and Clubs? Now that is a sacrifice.

Every successful project team I have been on has had a resident Druid who essentially was the glue of the team.

5) Exploration and investigation is the key to success

If you had a really good Dungeon Master, all the really good treasure was hard to find. Usually in a secret room or secret panel.

Dungeon crawling is quite similar to a project. You have an initial quest that you need to complete, but the real key to completing the quest and succeeding is examining the periphery of the quest and discovering the items that may not be immediately visible. But by finding these items, individual and group accomplishments became much easier and greater.

And if your Dungeon Master was really good, the quest was impossible to complete unless you explored and investigated. Just like in real life. Some projects may not succeed unless you exhaust all the options that may not be immediately apparent.

Summary

There is actually one more principle that I learned from Dungeons and Dragons. The Importance of Friendship. In our early levels we conducted ourselves as a group of individuals, but as we grew we showed more concern for our teammates and for splitting up the treasure appropriately. (and saving each other when our hit points were low)  The game taught us how to share, sacrifice, and appreciate members of the team. It also made us appreciate the fact that we grew-up together side by side.

You see this on really great teams that have accomplished great things. The bond that the individuals have never seem to fade. The generosity and concern for each other never fades. When they see each other they are taken back to the project and quests when they found the +25 Axe of Smiting.

Thanks Gary Gygax

About Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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