Why you need a great team to deliver an IT project

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

 

We are judged on our individual contribution but most of the time we are contributing in a team, working on a shared goal such as delivering a project.  To make your work life more enjoyable and more successful its worth helping recruit the best people to the team and improve others.

IT Projects are a team game, involving developers, testers, BA’s, business experts (customers), project managers and other roles.  Individually we can go fast but if you  to create something substantial, you need a team.  Teams bring scale and momentum but are the source of problems, most projects fail because of people not technology.

Get good people on your team

Don’t accept poor performance in a team, don’t accept average people, work with the best people you can.  The speed of a team is dictated by it’s slowest performing member, if you put B players on your team then it causes bottlenecks and slows the team.   Average team members have low standards, they don’t take responsibility  and don’t work hard.

Average team members slow down better team members and can frustrate them enough for them to leave the project or the company, life is too short to work with people who don’t care.  Its frustrating to team members who work hard and have to compensate for those who aren’t.

Average members set the benchmark of satisfactory performance.  Your star performers see average performance is acceptable and this leads to everyone coming down to that level.  The minimum requirement for a team member is they work hard, improve and learn from their mistakes.

People who are working hard and improving get better, these people rise to the level of their talented team members.  The difference between average and great is attitude.

I was a scrum master of a team and one developer was not doing a good job.  The developer wasn’t working hard; they didn’t understand the business requirements and would frequently skip steps in the development process.  The developer didn’t integrate with the team or take ownership of tasks.

The developers code often had bugs and would take two or three attempts to fix a bug.   The developer asked other developers for help, slowing them down.   It was frustrating for other team members because the developer hadn’t tried to look up the answer.

This slowed the team down and caused the team and the customer to become frustrated with missed deadlines.  I hoped the developer would get better, but they didn’t.  I discussed the problems and highlight the effect it was having on the team, we looked at bug statistics and missed deadlines.  The effects of having a B player was disruptive, it slowed the team down and frustrated everyone.

Problems don’t resolve themselves, particularly if that problem is a person

Talented people like working with talented people because they teach each other and add value by viewing problems from different perspectives, bringing different solutions.  Talented people work together with ideas, questions, feedback, raising problems and creating solutions which are better than they would create as individuals.

Steve Jobs highlights the importance of A getting the best software engineers.  

Steve Jobs on Average vs Best Software Engineers
“If you go to New York City and get an average taxi cab driver versus the best taxi cab driver, you’ll probably get to your destination with the best taxi driver 30% faster. And an automobile; What’s the difference between the average car and the best? Maybe 20% ?

Now, in software, and it used to be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; Maybe even 100:1.

Very few things in life are like this, but what I was lucky enough to spend my life doing, which is software, is like this. So I’ve built a lot of my success on finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, but really going for the ‘A’ players. And I found something… I found that when you get enough ‘A’ players together; when you go through the incredible work to find these ‘A’ players, they really like working with each other.

Because most have never had the chance to do that before. And they dont work with ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, so its self policing. They only want to hire ‘A’ players. So you build these pockets of ‘A’ players and it just propagates.”

What does good look like

Being a team player is vital, to create something substantial you have to work as a team.  Team members need to put the team first, value the other team members and communicate.

When people hear the word communication they think it’s about talking but that is only half of it.  Communication is listening, clarifying, acknowledging and talking.  Team members need to listen, value each member because you build on the  ideas of each team member.

A team solution is like building a tower, each person puts in a brick and each brick builds on top of ones before.  If you don’t listen you are build separate towers and you have to decide which towers to use but it won’t be as big or as strong as a team tower.

Team members need to trust each other because individuals on a team need to

  • Speak up
  • Raise problems before they become problems
  • Give feedback on ideas, solutions, performance
  • Put forward ideas
  • Ask questions
  • Ask for help
  • Have fun

Help them work as a team

It’s not just getting a group of good people together and throwing them onto a project, an effective team is more than the sum of its parts.

Good leadership highlights the problem/goal and asks the team how to do it.  Leadership should support the team, protect the team from distractions and help resolve issues as they arise.  Hire good people and then get out of the way so they can do their job.  You need to trust people and give them responsibility and the opportunity to do a great job.

A team needs to trust each other to collaborate.  The best way to do this is get to know each other, have fun and socialise to build rapport.

Summary

Your individual success is influenced by the team you work with and the achievements of the team.  Anything significant needs a team to deliver it and the most effective way to be successful is work in a good team and help everyone improve.

Try and help bring the best people you can to your team, everything we do in life involves working with people and collaborating to deliver projects.

Set high standards, work hard and be a good team player.  Technology, change management, processes are all tools used by people and teams to deliver solutions.  Work is a team game and the better the people you work with the more success you will have.

Make sure you work with good people if you want to be successful.

Further reading

The Importance of Working With “A” Players

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