Thursday, February 27, 2014

Calling in the militia

I've tried and it's hard: building a team from a bunch of independents with no core that carries the culture.

The question arises: are you in for the duration or for just a hitch?

Given enough time, those in for the duration can coalesce into a team, absorb a common culture, and attain a degree of efficiency that goes along with a common experience.

But it's really hard to shuffle the militia in and out for each battle, especially if they are independents, and even more especially if they are another firm that are in for the opportunity as a teammate. This is matrix management writ large! And, to do the hiring you've probably got the HR department in the mix... gasp!

We can all think of the reasons why militia teams are problematic, starting with Brooks' Law*: "Adding people to a late project makes it later".

But there are the other obvious points:
  • Overhead to recruit/absorb new troops and to lose the temps ... hiring/ training, explanations, logistics, etc
  • Realignment of relationships and new alliances
  • Challenges to the culture as new ideas are brought in
  • Resistance to new ideas (See: NIH, not invented here) and different risk attitudes
  • New biases to deal with -- everyone comes with some baggage
  • Walking out after your hitch is up with the corporate project knowledge, thereby leaving a knowledge desert (exit interviews rarely mitigate this hazard, but non-compete agreements are a must!)
If you're going the militia route, plan in the overhead! There's no free lunch that comes with working with independents.

*Brooks' Law from "Mystical Man month" by Dr Fred Brooks

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