Uncovering the DNA of a Great Team

Mifos & ThoughtWorks teams discover the keys to successful global collaboration.

bootcamp_art_2Recently the Tech for Microfinance team has been going through the McCarthy Bootcamp, a teamwork laboratory, to help bring our team into alignment and closer to greatness. BootCamp is transforming us into a high-performance team, fully aligned around a shared vision so we can ship a great Mifos product faster to our customers.

Thus far, our team has completed two BootCamps; one with our US-based staff and then a second follow-on BootCamp with our software engineers and professional services staff from around the world. This past May we held our 3rd BootCamp with the newest member of the team Joe McNulty, and four participants from our newest strategic technology partner, ThoughtWorks. Bringing together the ThoughtWorks team from Bangalore with our Seattle staff we aimed to form a strong team that would eliminate the time zone and geographical distances. The following is a highlight of their achievements throughout their 3 day BootCamp:

Goal for BootCamp:

  1. To create a course that allows great teams to ship great products on time, every time;
  2. Create a model for a great global connection—a workflow plan that would function worldwide and create GREATNESS as a result.

The essence of the team’s product was an homage to the Boot Camp training course itself: Through bootcamp_art_1pressure cooker situations like the one BootCamp creates, a team can establish a unique DNA that contributes to its eventual greatness. That DNA theme rang throughout their product delivery as an example of what the course can draw out of a team that strives for greatness.

They decided that the best way to demonstrate our team’s greatness was to ship a “product” that was illustrative of that. Their theory was that “In great teams, personal alignments become team alignments, individual passions become team passions, and personal experience becomes shared experience.” Through the use of improvised music and communal painting, they demonstrated how the uniqueness of each team member can contribute to the greatness of the group without needing any verbal queues. A truly great team can seamlessly collaborate on any project regardless of distance. Our team will eventually be spread out across the globe, but its greatness is not interrupted by a lack of physical presence. Rather, it is enhanced by the diversification of the team’s greatest resource—its members.

“In Team We Trust”

Here’s a day by day first-hand recap from Vinod of the BootCamp as it occurred:


Gang of four Thought-Workers traveled from Bangalore to Seattle for back to back meetings and pairing with their counterparts at Grameen Foundation. In what was supposed to be a no fun, all work visit, we were offered seats for upcoming BootCamp. The event would carry away 3 out of 10 work days we had in Seattle and we wanted to abstain politely. It was pointed out as the one thing we couldn’t do remotely from Bangalore, so we took U turns and signed up for BootCamp.

Participants were required to read a 150 page manual before meeting veteran trainers Jim and Michele McCarthy at 7 PM on Tuesday. Like us, Joe the only participant from Grameen Foundation turned up without any serious reading. . The assignment was to deliver a course that would teach us ship great products on time every time as global team. Jim briefed us that he would play a number of roles, switching back and forth between a Consultant helping with delivery and the Boss who wanted the product by Friday. For the most part however, we would be on our own. Despite being perplexed with numerous questions regarding the assignment, Jim pushed us to the driver’s seat and encouraged us to read manuals. We called it a day at 8:30 PM.

Day 1:

The mystery began to fade by mid-Wednesday when it dawned on us that BootCamp is the course that would teach us to deliver great products on time every time as a global team. We were the designers and implementers of BootCamp (add something about recursion). With realization, came great interest from participants and more questions for Jim. We spent the day in the midstof art supplies, paints, brushes, canvas, guitars, drums and inspirational talks from Jim. With help of Jim and references to the manual (a a product derived of all previous BootCamps), each one of us came up with our personal alignment, the one thing that we eachwanted as individual. The rest of the team would help us investigate this and Jim gave one-on-one advice when requested. With input from across the team, we each identified blocks and possible solutions to help us achieve our personal alignment.. We played the perfection game with solutions in hand and came out with the best solutions as a team for achieving each individual’s goal.

Day 2:

By Thursday we found that the personal alignment exercises put together had actually become the team’s alignment and product itself. Jim sent us out for an adventure and we explored Pike’s Place Market with Joe.

Day 3:

On Friday we shipped the product in front of guests from Grameen Foundation. We presented the course we designed, our shared understanding on personal and team alignments, the greatness we met and the importance of team DNA to transform a global team into one that functions like it was located in the same place. We played the song we composed, exhibited the paintings we created and showed an interactive crossword with the names of all team members from ThoughtWorks and Grameen Foundation we worked with. We compared the greatness of our product with the greatness of art by Picasso. The vision statement we had was “In team we trust”. Boot camp was fun.