What kind of team are you? Do you think that your team is too authoritarian? Or there’s too much freedom for you in your team and you can’t cope with it? Do you have this feeling like you’re bored with your team? Or your team is your sweet spot and your wife’s jealous ‘coz you feel so good there?

To some extent everyone is dependent on the team, the mood, perception of life, motivation… But now what is the best model for the team that would make it a sweet spot for the many?
I usually suggest measuring teams by affinity to one of these two quite contrary models: Oarsmen and Commandos.

In the first case the team acts as a ship, where everyone is oarsman and manager’s at the stern. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is overwhelmed with autocratic manager. It only means that all people do is blindly row expecting someone else determining the course of the ship (case #1).

Second model means absolutely different thing: team members empowered to make decisions and act at their discretion to achieve common goal (case #2).

Here’s main differentiators for these two models that at the same time determine the “quality” of a team:

  • Team “cares” in case #2 and is pretty indifferent to it’s performance in case #1.
  • Team adapts to changes actively and efficiently in case #2 and is often unable to “switch” in case #1. This is because Commandos solve problem, occupy building or destroy bridge or … whatever’s the objective, while guys in case #1 just row. Solving problems is pretty much the same in many different domains, ‘coz it involves first of all collaborative effort to make things happen. Same way you gonna make decisions, take risks, bear responsibility etc… not just row.
  • Individuality is respected in case #2 while they all just row in case #1. People rely on each other’s different skills. But those skills in fact can only be discovered when people try different roles at different angles.
  • Manager is useless in case #1. Despite he or she can play tough guy and have this false feeling of retaining control over things, his team just rows and there’s no way avoiding the bitterness of managerial mistakes at the stern.
These 4 bullets also let you better understand what kind of environment you’re in. It is extremely important, because being part of motivated and capable team is as good for you as bad it is being part of the poor one.
Alex Yakima
Paul is a software architect for Luminis Technologies and the author of “Building Modular Cloud Apps With OSGi”. He believes that modularity and the cloud are the two main challenges we have to deal with to bring technology to the next level, and is working on making this possible for mainstream software development. Today he is working on educational software focussed on personalised learning for high school students in the Netherlands. Paul is an active contributor on open source projects such as Amdatu, Apache ACE and Bndtools.