Josh (diji) wrote in worldofwarcraft,

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Everything I Needed to Know About Management, I Learned From a PuG in World of Warcraft

X-Posted from my own LJ, but thought people here might be interested in this.

The other day, I interviewed for a new job as the manager of our building’s small IT department. The questions were all based around how I would handle the rigors of making decisions, aligning visions to meet set goals, and mediating team strife. In the back of my mind, I constantly told myself "Don’t mention WoW, don’t mention WoW...".

Several hours after the interview, I started thinking about it and began to ask myself a simple question... why NOT bring up WoW? Leading a pickup group of talented players (as I’d like to think most all of them are in their own right), as I began to explain in my mind, is really not that different from managing a team of talented professionals.

So how did I get to that thought? Well, let me start by explaining some things for the uninitiated:

There are 2 types of groups in WoW: Pickup Groups and Guild Groups.

A Guild Group is a small group of people from your guild (a group of players who congregate under a shared banner by choice, usually to help each other achieve mutual goals). You generally know what to expect from the people in these groups and have the benefit of scheduling activities in advance. The dynamic, as you can guess, is different from the alternative.

A Pickup Group is a group of random people who get together to perform a task together. In the case of WoW, pickup groups generally form to run instanced dungeons, complete complex quests, or participate in various player versus player combat, either in the battlegrounds or out in the world. With pickup groups, you never know (unless you know the player, by experience or reputation) what to expect from the people you are with. The person who first forms the group is marked as leader, although that role can be passed as desired.

In any group, there are 3 static roles, and 3 dynamic roles that members of the group need to perform.

Static Roles
- Main Tank: The Main Tank’s purpose is simply to keep all of the big nasties focused on him. By keeping the enemies attention focused on him, he frees the rest of the members of the group to perform their roles. If the main tank dies, then the rest of the group is in a heap of painful trouble. Many group leaders are Main Tanks, as it gives them more direct control of the action.
- Main Healer: The Main Healer’s job is to keep all members of the party alive, in good health, and fighting. If the healer dies, the group’s chances of success become very slim.
- DPS: In a 5 man group, if you have a healer and a main tank, then the rest of the people are tagged with the responsibility of DPS. DPS stands for Damage per Second, but in terms of the role, means the players responsible for beating the snot out of the baddies. While the Tank is keeping them focused on him and the Healer is keeping everyone alive, the DPSers are quickly chipping away at their health until dead.

Dynamic Roles
- Off-Tank: A DPS character capable can switch to Off-Tank in the event that the Main Tank has lost someone’s attention. This person swoops in, beats up on the baddie until its focused on him, and then returns him to the Main Tank, or dispatches him outright.
- Off-Healer: If the Main Healer is dead, unable to heal anymore (out of mana), or otherwise overburdened, then a player capable may switch into the role of Off-Healer. This person begins to share the workload with the Main Healer until things can be brought back under control.
- Crowd Control: Some groups of bad guys are just too big. Many of the DPS classes have skills in the category of Crowd Control. Crowd Control abilities incapacitate enemies, giving the group time to focus on a smaller group of nasties, and raising their chance of success.

The static roles must always be present; while the Dynamic roles can be picked up or dropped based on circumstances. There has to be a balance in the number of people in the static roles, or problems can form. Too many people trying to perform in the Main Tank role can create confusion, as well as tax a Main Healer beyond effectiveness. Too many Main Healers can also create confusion, as well as cause problems when they attract unwanted attention from mobs of bad guys. Too many DPSers, to the point of not including a tank or healer, can cause some very tough problems, mostly in the realm of dying often and high repair bills.

Its also important for people to understand all 6 roles and how their character class and play-style fit into the mix. Warriors generally cannot heal, but they make darn good tanks and DPSers. Priests can heal, but they do a terrible job staying alive while holding a villain’s attention.

The most common group gripes come from the following things:
- Distribution of treasure/rewards: This fight alone will break many groups. If it is not clear how treasure will be distributed, someone will get their feelings hurt when they don’t get something they really really wanted or could have used.
- Role (mis)understanding: The person who doesn’t understand how they fit into the group will tax each of the other members of the group by not being able to pull their weight.
- Attitude/Communication: People who are combative, abusive, or otherwise inconsiderate can also break up a good group, no matter how talented they are.

So what do you do as a PuG leader? Simple... you bring the group together, open the lines of communication, mediate disagreements, and focus your group members’ visions toward a shared set of goals. A good group leader will:
- Find our who his group members are, what their capabilities are, and what role they’d like to play. This will help in setting the balance of the group.
- Open the lines of communication by asking what quests people have, what their goals are, what loot they’re looking for; and will set important expectations such as code of conduct and loot rules.
- Lay down the plan of attack. Basically, the leader will say, "Okay, we’re going to do this, and then this, and then this, and finally this."
- Set the pace. The leader will begin leading the first few pulls and skirmishes, in order to set a rhythm for the group to follow.

So I’ve gotten on... how does this tie into management?

You start with a small group. You have the following roles:
- Main Tank: That person on the team who’s always out front, and who’s face is synonymous with the team. Often times this is the Manager themselves, but sometimes this is a member of the group who interacts with customers/other departments.
- Main Healer: The motivator of the group. They’re good at keeping people’s spirits up, keeping them engaged, and keeping them coming in day in and day out.
- DPS: The rest of the team helps to get the projects complete and the work done.

As situations arise, there are Dynamic roles too:
- Off-Tank: Usually the right-hand person of the Main Tank; they step in to help address people external to the group when big things are occurring.
- Off-Healer: When things get really bad, when work really sucks, they step in to help the main morale booster do their thing. Maybe they’re helping the HR person plan the big picnic that will help push people into working just a little harder to finish the project, or maybe they’re just helping to manage and redirect the team’s stress so that team members don’t blow up into fits of rage.
- Crowd Control: They help identify and manage a trouble in an imminent tsunami of troubles, lessening the burden on everyone, so that everyone can just do their thing like they know how.

Managing the people and personalities in these roles is tricky work, especially when more than one want the same role. Again, this is achieved by understanding and communication. Like any group, however, trouble does occur. Small teams at work usually fight over:
- Distribution of rewards/appreciation: This can be money, awards (like employee of the month), verbal praise, or anything else of value to a working stiff.
- Role (mis)understanding: Not understanding one’s place in the team can hurt the person (the confusion of not knowing what to do, or the anger of finding out that the thing you worked on was not yours and your time was wasted), and can hurt the team (people tend to get surly when the team has to work that much harder to catch up because someone was neglecting their part of things to perform double work on someone else’s part).
- Attitude/Communication: No one wants to work with another team member who is counterproductive, disrespectful or abusive.

So how do you handle this? Same way you do a PuG:
- Setup the lines of communication by asking about each person’s specific goals and thoughts, and by learning each person’s strengths, weaknesses, and style.
- Lay down the plan of attack. Set goals for your team and start working on identifying the tasks that will help achieve those goals, as well as metrics to track yourself.
- Set the pace. Roll up your sleeves and begin helping with a part of the work. Take time out when you can to check status and pace, report it to your team members, refocus on the next objective, and keep on trucking.

So what do you think? Think this is the way to manage a small group of people who work for you? Think this is the way to manage a group of totally random people who just want to take down the Scarlet Monastery, or tackle the depths of the Temple of Atal’Hakkar? Have I oversimplified, or does this seem about right? Let me know.
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