How do we want to play?

A discussion around [tech] team construction

I was going home from my sports session this evening, listening to a podcast about F.C Barcelona, and they were interviewing a former assistant coach. One of his remarks sparked a spiral of thoughts about teams and team construction in my head.

The sentence

So, if you know football a bit, you know that we Barça fans are as pedantic as they come. We like one way of playing and consider it the "correct" one. But, to play that way you need a mix of certain characteristics and temperaments from your players.

The interviewee in question likes knowing as many players as he can, and when questioned as to why he answered:

If you know a lot of players, you can choose the ones that will adapt to how you want to play

And, as I said it started a tornado in my head.

A typical interview

Ok, a typical interview in my experience, but I think I might not be too far off.

Here are the big questions companies usually try to find out when interviewing a candidate:

  • Are they technically proficient

  • Have they got a insert adjective personality

  • Do they not want too much money

  • Will they work enough hours

On the other hand, a candidate will usually want to know:

  • Will this be good for my career

  • Will they pay me enough money

  • Will the work be interesting

  • Will they not make me work too long hours

  • Does the team seem insert adjective

I think something is missing in these considerations

The missing piece

I believe the missing piece here is knowing how the team and the candidate work and how they want to work.

And although it seems like a detail, in the tech world we can be almost as pedantic as barça fans.

We all have our definition of agile, how much peer programming should happen, whether there should be pull requests or not, on how synchronous should communication be. Pick a topic and there are at least 2 schools of thought.

And these are important questions, as a company you want people that will want to play the way you play and vice-versa.

On team roles and diversity

It might seem I am advocating here for monoculture and nondiverse teams, but far from it.

Different roles (I was taught Belbin at school, but pick your poison), personalities, and cultural backgrounds are extremely important to have, but they all want to at least want to play the same game.

If half your team needs to have in-person meetings daily and the other half prefers asynchronous communication, working together might not be easy.

A parting thought

Either because you are hiring or because you are being hired, take team construction into account.

Think how you want to work and how the other party wants to work