When it comes to unusual feats of human ingenuity, Domino Day in the Netherlands was a 20-plus-year tradition that took those familiar game pieces and created incredibly intricate patterns of falling tiles that would impress any engineer. Since the mid-1980s, each successive Domino Day outdid the last one with new patterns and challenges—not to mention hundreds of thousands more tiles. Every year’s contest brought another new world record.

That all came to an end in 2007 when a pattern that included a moving bridge of dominoes failed to fall—and 400,000 dominoes were left standing. The lesson? All it takes is one. What happened at 2007 Domino Day can happen to any team. Just a single team member who isn’t fully engaged—like one poorly-placed domino—can have a significant impact on the project’s outcome.

Teams function best when every member is engaged. There are a variety of reasons why some don’t—they feel intimidated or not fully invested in what’s at stake—and it’s critical to find ways to draw them out so that everyone is involved.

Communicate clearly (and often) in meetings that every team member’s opinion has been heard and is valuable. Create transparency and collegiality that makes everyone feel comfortable expressing their views, even if it’s an unpopular one.

Key Takeaways

  • Identify the skills of non-contributing team members and find alternate ways to involve them
  • Repeat the value of openness and collegiality to set a positive tone in every meeting
  • Discuss with the team how each person’s input is important to the project
  • Reiterate the team’s commitment to group responsibility for performance and results

Learn more about our project management methodology.