IT Staff & Team BuildingProject Management

5 Ways to Build a Balanced IT Team

If assembling the best project team was as easy as glancing over skill sets on employee resumes, project success rates would likely be much higher. The reality of course is that building the perfect team is much trickier than that. Kristin Burnham writes for InformationWeek about five ways of building a balanced IT team, drawing upon input from James Kenigsberg, CTO of software company 2U:

  1. Hire for passion first, tech skills second.
  2. Be aware of your gaps.
  3. Avoid common questions.
  4. Ask the candidate for a “premortum.”
  5. Care less about perfection.

Perfect Paradigm

Your candidate Jack may have a lot of technical knowledge, but if he is lazy and unwilling to learn new things, what good is he? That is why you should hire for passion over skill, because skills can be taught; passion comes at a premium. Nonetheless, you should try to map the various skill sets and technological capabilities you have on hand, so that you can see where the gaps in your abilities lie.

During interviews, you want to ask questions that get to the heart of a person’s attitudes. Kenigsberg recommends taking the easy answers to common questions and restructuring them into new questions, such as asking, “What does teamwork mean to you?” This forces a candidate to speak in terms beyond buzzwords. The candidate gets into an even stickier situation when the idea of a “premortum” comes up:

[Kenigsberg] asks for two stories: one about what the candidate would hypothetically do to manage the most successful project ever, and one about how the candidate might fail.

“I want to see how you got to failure and how you got to success. What went wrong when you were on your way to the office from New York and you were late by an hour? Did your cab get lost? Did you miss your train? What process did you put in place if trains are delayed next time?” he said. “These are the things I want to hear, but about something like a development lifecycle. It's easy to see if people are smart or experienced enough to see what could go wrong.”

Once the crafty interrogations are over, Burnham reminds us to aim for “great” with project completion and not “perfect.” The amount of time and money spent to get a project from 85 percent awesome to 100 percent awesome is seldom worth it. You can read Burnham’s full article here:

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