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7 Ways to Prevent Dunkirk Spirit from Burning Out Your Team

Occasional heroic team efforts can build great teams. It can also burn them out and tear them apart.

  • When your team is in a Dunkirk Spirit episode, all other projects and priorities fade away. Because the episode displaces other projects and priorities, you’ll need to make sure that those other projects and priorities are picked back up. What you don’t want is a cycle in which one episode creates another as the team rushes to put out some fire that started during the previous episode, only to have to turn around and do it again.
  • The intensity of a Dunkirk Spirit episode is both exhilarating and taxing. The high of running full tilt often comes with a crash of having burned through all of your fuel.
  • Dunkirk Spirit episodes set up a situation in which it’s easy to fail. All it takes to start a cascade is for one key player — especially the project leader — to go down hard. The heroism that is the signature of a Dunkirk Spirit episode is also what makes it such a fragile and tenuous pattern.

7 Ways to Prevent Dunkirk Spirit from Burning Out Your Team

1. Make Better Plans

2. Communicate Partial Plans Earlier

3. Focus on Fewer Projects That Matter Most

4. Bake Some Margin Into Your Team Allocations

5. Get More Frequent Status Updates and Adjust Your Plans

6. Kick the Scope/Project/Goal Creep

7. Do Postmortems and Apply the Insight You Gain From Them

Save Dunkirk Spirit for the Times You Need It or Can Plan for It

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