Imagine your employer has given you the opportunity to put together a team of your own for the first time. In this scenario, you work in a small or medium-sized company with an established business model that’s looking for new technical leadership and ideas.
Executive management has confidence in you and has given you the authority to direct your team or department’s resources to provide the most value and benefit to the organization. Here are six steps to help you build your team.
To hear a detailed discussion on the topic, check out this episode of The Next Level podcast in the Packet Pushers Community channel.
Step 1: Identify the functional roles needed to fulfill your team’s operational duties and strategic goals
- Consider your new organizations vision, mission, and strategic goals, and align your team’s strategy accordingly.
- Break your strategic plan down into initiatives and action items.
- What is the minimum level of skill needed to effectively carry them out?
- Is custom technology core to generating value in the business or will COTS / SaaS work just fine?
- Assess the business and technology architecture.
- Is the business centralized or decentralized?
- Is technology siloed within departments? Is technology used to orchestrate cross-cutting business processes?
- Is the organization subject to any specific governance, rules, and compliance?
One way to identity functional roles is based on job titles and descriptions, which imply responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and abilities. Here are some examples of teams and job titles (for illustration purposes only, not necessarily recommended.)
As Alan Wijntje pointed out, it is a good idea to include the following roles in project teams. Allowing for a mix of experience levels affords opportunities for mentorship.
- Innovators (people looking at and driving technology changes)
- Worker drones (nose to the grind doing the arduous repetitive tasks (until automated by the innovators)
- Process developers (people who take it onto themselves to optimize processes and workflows).
- Communicators (people capable of binding a team of different personalities together to a cohesive unit)
Consider adding specific language and responsibilities in the job description to set expectations that can be fulfilled during the next steps.
Step 2. Quantify the scale, in full-time equivalents (FTEs) for each functional role needed
Multiple inputs are needed for a comprehensive assessment. These may include:
- Current and projected mid-term (e.g. 6 – 18 months) needs.
- Quantity of deferred, current, and projected tickets, projects, proposals, issues, and maintenance.
- Automated assessment tools for determining the overall state of the network.
The quantity or scale of a function can be a good indicator of whether a role should be in-sourced or outsourced. Consider outsourcing roles that:
- Are not core to the business or mission
- Require ⅓ (some say ½) FTE or less
- Needed on demand but not year round
Step 3. Sketch an org chart for your team design
- Place role shapes and label.
- Connect role shapes with arrows, indicating an accountable, manageable reporting structure.
- Illustrate (e.g. by shape fill color) which roles are in-sourced and which are outsourced.
Step 4. Gather the best human resources
Post jobs with desired qualifications and actively recruit. Set high expectations and find the best candidates.
- Find out which value added reseller (VAR) consulting engineers are the best from vendors, word of mouth, etc.
- Tap into your social networks (LinkedIn, friends, friends of friends, etc.).
- Recruit talent with the right mindset. In the long term, mindset is more important than an employee’s skills or knowledge. Look for people who are
- Able to think for themselves
- Willing and able to learn new skills and ways of doing things
- Persistent and dedicated enough to finish difficult challenges
- Hire people on a provisional or at-will basis wherever possible.
- Start team members off as a pool of flexible resources, don’t ink their place on your org chart just yet.
Step 5: Burn-in
Bring team members into situations where they have to work together in real-time, to overcome a common challenge. Ideally, this would be in a gamified yet productive event (e.g. scavenger hunt, capture the flag, etc.).
Observe the team for 90 days.
- How do individuals choose to spend their time?
- Who is getting work done and who is goofing off?
- Are they self-starters or do the wait around to be told what to do?
- Do they follow through and complete work when they said they would?
- What level of functional knowledge do they have?
- What motivates them?
- Desire to serve / A sense of higher purpose
- Money / profit
- Learning opportunities
- Working with “good people” (e.g. trustworthy, high performers)
- Satisfaction of job well done / getting things done
Step 6: Optimize
This step includes consistently and regularly working towards excellent team performance. Meet and exceed your company’s formal performance requirements.
- Track goals (e.g. strategic project, training) and key performance indicators (KPI), by which each position will be measured.
- Do not shy away from hard decisions.
- When someone falls short of expectations, let them know right away and provide constructive criticism.
- Identify staff that aren’t a good fit for their assigned role and create opportunities to better utilize their talents in different positions.
- As a last resort, let people go. Be up front. Don’t let it drag out so long that it lowers morale or poses and insider threat.
- Invest in people.
- Recognize the high performers.
- Mentor and train promising medium performers.
- Officially assign roles and organization chart positions to individuals.
- Repeat Steps 4 thru 6 regularly.
(Thanks to active PacketPushers Alan Wijntje, @Drew_CM, @K_Speckmann and our podcast guests for their contributions to this topic.)