J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Talk Teams Not Resources

Talk Teams Not Resources

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I was reading a nice little eBook on Opportunities and Challenges with Agile Portfolio Management

Here’s the part that caught my attention:

“Johanna Rothman, an Arlington, Mass., consultant and author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, said understanding the value stream of an existing product or ongoing project is key. ‘If we stop talking about people as resources and start talking teams, we have a better way of managing the portfolio,’ she said. ‘If we flow work through teams, we’re much more likely to be successful; teams get things done in software.’”

Well put, and that it matches my experience.

Here’s what I’ve seen in my travels to different organizations …

I see a common mistake the team level when it comes to effective execution and productivity:

Teams of capabilities vs. teams of one.

Individuals work problems instead of the team works shared problems.

It’s the resource vs. team mentality.

In other words, the team gets split into individuals working individual problems instead of the team working on shared problems together.

In that case, it’s not really a team effort.  It’s individuals doing mini-projects as a one-man band.  Instead of a team of capabilities, you get teams of one, and capability varies.  Worse, because it’s individuals driving projects as an individual, they wear many more hats, and spend less time in their strengths.  So you end up with individuals performing sub-optimal, and you never experience the benefits of an actual high performance team.

When you work problems as teams, and have people spend more time in their strengths, you can better optimize for the strengths on the team.  You can also balance better for the weaknesses.   You can also put simple systems and processes in place that lift everyone’s performance to new levels.  Ultimately, individuals on the team can spend more time on their unique value, and less time reinventing wheels and re-solving basic execution challenges.

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