- 16th April 2018
- Posted by: Manolis
I recently authored a piece on technology tackling a growth phase. In this article, I will expand on the first of five essential elements needed: an exceptional team operating in a high-performance culture that can scale and is well-aligned with the next set of business challenges.
The most important part of creating an excellent team is visualizing what will be required to achieve your goals over the next 12 to 18 months. Think of it as not only an organizational chart but as a road map of sorts. What kind of people do you need? What values, capabilities and skills should they possess? And how can you get them to effectively work together to execute on the roadmap in an efficient way?
This is not as trivial an exercise as you might first think. You need to have a clear picture of how much of each type of work is needed, how the work will be managed, what stakeholders your team needs to interact with, the level of quality required and any company-specific considerations. Then you should think through the different options and pick the one that is most optimal based on a thorough examination of the pros and cons for each. If you spend less than a few hours on this step, you are probably not being as rigorous as you should be. Even better, have a few other people who have experience with organizational design stress-test your draft.
The next step, if you are not creating a team from scratch, is to compare the people you currently have to this chart and to identify the gaps. This may feel harsh, but it is essential to understand these. Just like any good business analyst would do when defining requirements, you must be very clear on the gaps so you can identify the best ways to solve them. If you do not acknowledge them, they will still be there and hurt you and how well you will be able to achieve your goals.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it is very unlikely you will find no gaps regardless of how great the people on your current team are. It isn’t necessarily a problem that there are gaps, and it’s definitely not a judgment on the quality of the people. Instead, it is an honest assessment of what you need to recruit for. These assessments should spawn great and candid professional development conversations with each person if done well. That is the level of detail required here so the results are actionable.
Of course, you will sometimes find that there are people who are not good fits for these new roles. If you have spent the necessary due diligence on defining them, you should have the confidence to terminate someone who may have even been a strong contributor in the last phase of the company. This does not mean they will not find new opportunities. In fact, while the immediate sting may be tough, they will more often than not end up in a better situation for themselves. And, of course, it’s important to be highly respectful and compassionate, as you would always do. If delivered with a high degree of integrity and with examples that help them understand what they may not want to hear, the feedback will be extremely valuable to them when the dust settles.
You now need to staff for the newly defined roles. The technology job market is still very hot and competitive, so finding excellent people is difficult. They are almost always happily employed and may not be local to your office(s), so be prepared — especially if you haven’t recruited heavily recently — to spend a significant portion of your time on this. If you have the budget to pay a retained search firm or to work with contingency firms, use the best recruiters from your past. You may have to supplement your internal recruiting team with a dedicated, embedded recruiter. Make sure the job descriptions are as clear as possible, make them fun and inviting and highlight your value proposition extremely well.
Ensure you design an interview lineup and set of assessments that balance expediting the process as much as possible (to not lose candidates to competing firms) without cutting short a legitimate assessment of each candidate, making sure they have the values, capabilities and skills necessary for the new role. If you find someone excellent, you will know it. If you have any doubt, move on. Waiting (but not too long!) for the right candidate is difficult because of the many pressures you will have to “just deliver,” but the cost is too great to make any mistakes here. If you need a bridge, find a high-quality consulting firm that can partner with you in delivering in your environment. For example, start-ups will likely not find success with a large consultancy as opposed to a smaller boutique shop that has a track record of working with internal A teams.
Building and operating an exceptional growth team is critical to the success of the next phase of your business but is too often compromised on. It’s worth getting creative if you need more runway to recruit and hire the right people because of the immense cost of not doing this. Remember to clearly define what you need based on all available information, assess your people against that, make the difficult decisions if necessary and spend a lot of time and energy on bringing in the right mix of A players. Without the right people in the right environment, not much else you do will matter.