Tech Leaders! Learn how to build effective teams, please!!!!
I have an exercise for you. Take 10 brilliant, capable, motivated individuals and assign them a joint/team task. This task is to screw in a light bulb. Tell them that each member must actively participate in screwing in the light bulb to receive credit for the task. What will happen next, you ask? Well, these 10 brilliant individuals will engage in long, well-thought-out discussions on how to screw in the light bulb. They will ask questions like, “does each one of us need to be touching the bulb while we screw it in.” They will argue about the best methods if the light fixture is on the ceiling. They will try to determine the height of the fixture, etc…… There will be a lot of time and energy wasted when it’s a simple < 1-minute task.
This is a perfect example of brilliant people on an ineffective, non-synergy team because the leader who has put together this team has thrown a nuclear bomb to kill a roach.
How about a real-world example. I was in a data science class, and the Professor broke the class up into teams to work on a class/team project. We had to build a machine learning model to predict the consumer churn rate, present the information in a PowerPoint presentation, and submit our findings in a PDF. All individuals had to participate to receive maximum credit for the project. The goal was to foster working in teams and replicate what is required for working on a “real-world” project. Long story short, we wasted time on “how a sentence was worded” or “we have to many paragraphs .” We spent hours just determining who would do what because it was literally too little work for 5 competent people. We created more models than required to ensure that people were participating. And when it was time to submit, someone always wanted to change something on one of the slides or rearrange the names on the slide…etc.
How much time and money would have been wasted if this was the real world? Our new Professor had a similar project in our next class but geared toward creating machine learning models for marketing. He wanted to form teams, and I asked him, “could I work by myself?” He was shocked at my request and warned me I could become overwhelmed. I told him I would be fine. I finished all my tasks before the other teams and consistently scored in the 95th percentile in the class project grades, even pulling the highest grade twice. I’m not trying to brag because I believe each 90% of my classmates could have done the same; however, the teams were not beneficial but actually a detriment.
I’ve been a leader in the tech field for 15 years, and the one thing I’ve learned is to create effective teams. I’ve learned to understand the problem and build teams to address the problem most efficiently and effectively. We, as tech leaders, just can’t throw people at a problem and expect the best results. More is not always the best. We must know the diminishing returns regarding human capital and place the right people in the proper role to complete an objective. It doesn’t take ten programmers or engineers to screw in the metaphorical light bulb; it only takes one, and the others will just get in the way. As leaders, we must understand the problem, assess our resources, and apply those resources appropriately. Long story short, keep it simple stupid, and somebody just screw in the damn light bulb please!