Earlier this year I read a Globe & Mail opinion piece that argued that Connor McDavid, a young hockey phenom playing for the Edmonton Oilers, runs the risk of having a mediocre career. The problem is not his skill as a hockey player, which is argued to be at the Bobby Orr/Wayne Gretzky level of proficiency, but rather the fact that he is engaged in a long-term contract with an organization that has difficulty shaping a team that can perform together and win. That got me thinking about the factors required for individuals to be successful.
Later the same morning, I was listening to a TED podcast “Worklife with Adam Grant: A Debate with Malcolm Gladwell”. The discussion turned to individual performance and teams and the many examples of how the performance of a team influences success, even when a superstar is part of the team.
In an associated article, Adam Grant talks about the effect of teams on success saying that “In teams, it appears that shared experience matters more than individual experience. The best groups aren’t necessarily the ones with the most stars, but rather the teams that have collaborated in the past.” Some of the examples he talks about both in the article and the podcast are:
- A surgeon’s performance and outcomes are associated not necessarily with the surgeon but with the hospital in which they are performing surgery. The difference in outcomes can be attributed to the team they work with at a hospital and the routines, performance and skills of the team.
- Another study shows that when a star financial analyst moves from one organization to another their performance often degrades, and it can take up to 5 years for that analyst to return to their star status. However, if the analyst moves to a new organization and takes their team with them, there is a higher probability of them becoming successful more quickly.
- An NTSB analysis of airline accidents showed that 44% happened on a crew’s first flight together.
- Successful software projects, those considered having the highest quality and on-time delivery, were delivered by teams that had the most shared experience.
In 2016, Google conducted research to understand the conditions required to make teams great. They wanted to enable teams to achieve success together. I wrote about Google’s findings in my previous blog, Agile and highly successful teams.
At Intelliware, our approach to engagements is to bring a team to each of our client projects, rather than providing individuals in staff augmentation roles. Our teams work side-by-side with our client’s developers, in a co-team arrangement, to work alongside Intelliware developers for knowledge transfer and to build client capacity throughout the project. We further combine our highly-functioning team with a client Product Owner, who establishes a shared vision to drive the product delivery and provides feedback throughout the process. We find that this approach brings success to both our clients and our teams.
Over many years, Intelliware has learned that a team of skilled software delivery and development professionals working in a team that has established norms, practices, values and shared experience consistently achieves successful delivery outcomes, where success is measured by business value deployed into production environments and being used by real people.