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Archive for October 13th, 2010

Four Challenges of Techie Teams

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Some insights from a couple of guys (Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones) from London Business School based on research of numerous companies.  Read our related set of articles – (here)


Once the preserve of high-tech companies, today techie teams are everywhere. They include computer game designers at Electronic Arts, software programmers at Microsoft, and the inevitable Googlets. But techie teams also occur in financial services companies, such as ING and Deutsche Bank, where technology increasingly resides in the organizational engine room. Indeed, IT and operations have moved from being support services in global banks to being at the heart of the business. For example, Deutsche Bank’s expertise at processing foreign exchange has given the bank a real competitive advantage.

Techie teams are prone to four distinct challenges.

First, clever techies have a tendency to be overly specialized. They are recognized as experts in their own field, and their clever status often rests on this. They have no wish to be led elsewhere.

Here is the consultant Paul Glen, drawing directly on his own work experience:

In general, geeks are rather ambivalent about joining groups. As introverts, they’re most comfortable working alone, concentrating on problems small enough to be attacked by only one person . . . The most common problem is the team that’s comprised solely of people who are strong at individual task skills and lack even a basic awareness of the other (relationship, team-work, process) skills.

Jonathan Neale acutely observes the following about the technically skilled engineers at the core of McLaren’s success. He describes the tension between shared mission and freedom to act:

The engineers like to be led by people who are authentic and gifted. The challenges are being able to give the technical team a sense of ownership about the mission. This has to be articulated in a language that describes their degrees of freedom to act and, simultaneously, the constraint or obligation to come back and report on it. So, they all want light-touch management, and they all want more funds and say, just trust us, it will be all right on the night. We don’t work like that. They’re accountable too.

This leads to a second, related problem: individual team members are typically obsessed by their own particular specialty, which can work to the detriment of the overall team objective.

If each team member focuses on their particular part of the jigsaw puzzle, they may never put all the pieces together to see the bigger picture. Two plus two does not necessarily add up.

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Written by frrl

October 13, 2010 at 5:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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