Who tunes the guitars?

Black Cat by erin m on flickr
You need men like this, otherwise live music would sound awful.

I read a lot of blog posts, articles, papers and what-not on creating, maintaining and coaching teams. It’s the one thing that, for me, has no set formula. Each team is different, as they’re made from different individuals, each with their own set of morals, ethics and experiences that drive their behaviours. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ team guide, unfortunately.

So, what we’re left with is a miasma of different works, all decrying or promoting some way or other of how to form and maintain a team, how to help them become high-performing, how to retrospect, plan, work, play, love, eat, argue and play football together. None of them are right and, equally, none of them are really wrong. But the one thing I see frequently is suggestions, and often demands, that “if they don’t fit, you’re hiring wrong/replace them” and this is alarming.

The common theme I see is that, yes, there IS a formula for creating the winningest team and, if one of the members of the team you’re trying to engineer to stardom doesn’t fit your mould, then he’s out on his ear … hit the road jack, your awesome-coding-but-complete-lack-of-personal-skills ass is outta here!

Not everyone can be a rockstar, you need some roadies too.

Perhaps you know someone, or have someone in your team who doesn’t really have any great ideas, isn’t that keen on researching the latest javascript framework or building some wanky Hipstagram filter in Ruby, but who can build a data abstraction layer, fully unit tested in a day and always reviews your code and finds the one or two things you missed. Where would you be without this guy?

Or maybe there’s the guy who just REALLY enjoys honking about with MySQL queries, doesn’t really give a rats ass about what the business does, but cares deeply about the quality of his code and making his queries elegant and fast.

Some of you may know the guy who get’s a real kick out of cutting HTML all day, taking the photoshop files from your rockstar, sweater-vest wearing, macciato drinking, fixie-bike riding designer and making a cross browser compliant, responsive and even working in IE.

These guys may not be the fastest, or the bloggiest, or the githubbiest, they may not even really get on that well with agile estimation, sprinting or ‘stakeholders’, but they’re rock solid and dependable.

Everyone has a place, even if they’re wearing a christmas sweater in June, they’re part of your team. Find a place for them, or, better yet, let them find their own place and do what they do best, even if it doesn’t align with your idea, or the internets’ idea, of what a perfect team is.

They tune the guitars and your rockstars play ’em. That’s what a real team is.

Some of us inherit teams. We don’t have the luxury of hand picking the people we want to have. Maybe there just isn’t enough in the budget to fill your team with rockstars. Software gets written outside of Silicon Valley too!

This, for me, is the real notion of building a team. Not chucking money at a bunch of rockstars, but taking what you have, or building on a small budget and creating a live band – you need rockstars AND roadies if you want to wow your audience.

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