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Archive for October 19th, 2010

Leading Techie Teams

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This is a follow-up on our posting Four Challenges of Techie Teams.  Those four challenges (among others) came from research done by Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones from London Business School (Wikipedia)

But how does an organization meet these challenges?  How do you lead and manage “Techie Teams” in the face of these challenges?  Do managers and leaders need to learn a different skill set to get the best out of techies?

Here are some suggestions from Gofee and Jones.  In the excerpts below, the techie folks are referred to as “clevers”.

The growing importance of clevers in the knowledge economy poses a huge challenge for organizations. Our research suggests that leading clever people requires a very different style of leadership from that traditionally seen in many organizations. In our experience, getting the best from clevers requires many of the traditional leadership virtues, such as excellent communications skills and authenticity. But it also requires leaders to demonstrate some additional qualities.

Communicating with clevers is always a challenge because they are totally absorbed by their own agendas. Engaging with them in a way that means they see the leader as being on their side is vital.

Help them understand their interdependence with others and the big picture

The close association between what they do and who they are also means that clever people often see themselves as not being dependent on others. The leader must, therefore, start by acknowledging their independence and difference.  If leaders do not do this, they fail at first base.  But, and it is an important caveat, the leader’s job is to make them understand their interdependence.  Recognizing the symbiotic nature of the relationship is critical to both the individual and the organization.

It can be a hard sell. Interdependence only goes so far.  Clever people are so focused on their professional passion that the bigger picture can be immaterial to them. Clever people tend to be extraordinarily interested in whatever they are clever in. This can mean that if you try to explain where their part fits into the overall picture—of how the users are going to use it—they say, that’s interesting, but why are you bothering me with it?  The leader can end up constantly checking that people aren’t creating incredibly elegant … [ solutions] … that are of little or no use to the … [ customer ].  With clevers, their own sense of beauty can become a money-consuming beast.  They start off designing a cup, and you end up with a tea set. “Creeping elegance!” snorted one CEO we talked with.

Set Limits, have an iron will to act – for the good of the organization

“Clevers need to know where the limits are,” one leader told us. “Otherwise, there will be anarchy—and that is not good for anyone.” Leaders were also clear that once the line was crossed, they had to take swift and uncompromising action. Not for them the knee-jerk reaction to having their authority challenged. Rather, the iron will to act in the best interests of the organization.

Provide structure, discipline, timescale, and sense of process

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Written by frrl

October 19, 2010 at 4:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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