First time poster, but a very interested listener for a while now. Even though I can't directly apply most of the things discussed in my current dayjob, I do find it all very fascinating.

Now, on to the reason I'm writing here. A team not getting paid, you might wonder. You can relax; I'm not speaking of slave labour here. Instead, it's about a virtual team spread all over the world, working on developing a computer game together on our spare time, next to our day jobs and studies.

There has been some discussions on how to approach this. The project has been in development for roughly a year now, and we haven't gotten as far as we would like. My theory as to why this is so, is the expectations of ourselves are set too low, and thus the responsibilities. We do have a team leader (a producer, if you will), whom has taken the stance that since this is a hobby project, there should be no pressure, or no guilt involved.

However, while we have milestones set up, and deadlines, these are never met, and missing them have no official repercussions -- instead there are rumblings about it among team members, and a steady growing annoyance. All this is detrimental for morale, and lately there has been a great lack of enthusiasm and involvement.

Part of the problem lies much with our inexperienced team members (I am one of these, myself), but also, I feel, with our team leader. So what I am wondering, and would like to throw out to you guys, is: What can you expect from a team that isn't getting paid for what it's doing? Should there be a firmer hierarchy within the project, with "bosses" and "mini-mosses", and should this be enforced properly?

Clearly there is a need for a change of some kind, I'm just hard-pressed to finding out what is REALLY the source of all this. It feels like it is a combination of many things.


Edit: grammar correction.

russdev's picture


I am a 'manager' at a site that is one of leading sites for ICT support staff in education.

All people involved do it free so got some idea on this. Way we work is this we have 4 of us who oversee the site and while we all have our areas we work on for example i head the web development and real life events. Then someone else heads newsletters, looking after community forums moderators and then got someone else who looks after our external relationships etc... you get the idea.

but then we have staff under the main four to spread the work around.,..

Obviously we all lead hand when needed for example one of the four has just had kid so his time is limited so we take some of slack and then he repays at a later date when someone else needs to spend time.

Next also listen to the podcast on virtual teams i just listened to that and some great ideas on it..

Second have regular method of communication we make sure we all use msn (we are all it people) and login on nearly every night if not every night every other night..

We also setup a admin blog to try and have an area for us as team to post and communicate things...

I also did same for development team so we can communicate.

There will be need to be one person moving stuff along main difference is to be little flexible in timelines, But plan for it I add a week onto a deadline if I can so that i know if a staff member has problem at home then he can deal with that and we are still on schedule.

Also call everybody 'staff' to renforce that work ethos...

and just remeber that people are doing it for free and in there own time but dont let that be an excuse just be slightly firm and if things getting behind say to them 'look if there is an issue because of family stuff let me know we canwork stuff out...."


DOs's picture

Thank you for the response, Russell. You have some interesting points there, and it's always helpful to get a look into the process of similar enterprises, if you will.

I especially think our producer could benefit from dividing up the workload a bit. Right now he's the producer, lead designer, art director, lead programmer, and so on. Combined with a wife, and full time as IT manager at a company, he often hasn't got the time he'd like to keep things running smoothly.

I have listened to the podcast about virtual teams, and it is what inspired me to really try to evaluate the whole team structure, and how we operate. It opened my eyes and gave me a few "oh gosh, why haven't we done this? We need to do this, it's too useful to be ignored."

One of these was the idea of having a weekly mail-in. For whatever reason, no one really knows what any other person is working on, or have been working on during a week. It's one of those things we really could make use of.

Also, I've been giving the whole "not getting paid" part a thought, and I might have to revise that slightly. Not a whole lot, but slightly. While we work for nothing, we do aim at making money off of this at one point or another. Find a producer company interested in investing into the project, and bringing it into production full-scale.

So in light of this, do you think we could demand a little bit more off of our staff, than that of a project that is aiming to do it purely for the fun of it? To answer my own question -- while still wanting some external feedback on this -- I'd go with: Yes. Still not demand as much as someone working with a monthly wage on it, but a bit more than someone doing something purely for the fun of it.


russdev's picture

yes be demanding but be flexible also try this we at moment dont need to do it but could be of use in your situation try and have a member who works across all of areas so this member can take some of slack when things get tight for a member due to real life and family.

Also ask members anything big coming up in their life so you can plan so ok through out September our programmer is going to be away on business for most of the month. So in september we will plan to reduce amount of programming and concentrate on other area..

Also have a route map for project etc that everybody has a say on it so we you know you want this doing by this date. This feature by this date etc etc

Make sure every team member has access to it so you all can see where you are going..


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Thanks for your post.

A team is a team. You can expect exactly the same thing from a non-paid team as you do from a paid team.

It sounds like your team and team leader aren't doing what they're supposed to. And then, you guys are willing to grumble but not speak up.

I think you need to ask everyone to re-commit, and talk about what commitment means. I don't think you lose anything by doing this, because the worst thing that could happen is that you have to find a new team... and I'm not sure you'd hate that. You could even say, "I love you guys, and want to continue... and, we set out to do X, and we're not doing X."

I also think weekly meetings, and verbal commitments and reporting on status, are all not just reasonable but required for what you're doing.

If you listen to our meetings cast, there is a part in there where we talk about how to fix responsibilities... I'd suggest you try that.

And if you haven't gotten where you want to go operationally and goal wise in 3 months, stay and admit you just want to have great friends, or quit the team and start making progress.


DOs's picture

Thank you, both of you, for the suggestions, thoughts, and insights. They are certainly valuable to me, and to the project, and I will see if my producer is open to some feedback regarding all this. If he is, and he embraces some of the thoughts, I will direct him to the Manager Tools podcast to further dive into it, as it truly is a wealth of great information.

Don't be surprised if you see me resurrecting this topic at a later time, with an update on how things have panned out. What's worked, and what hasn't.

Again, I really appreciate it.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

My pleasure. That's why we're here. Do keep us posted!