The Balanced Team
I hear a lot about “balanced teams” nowadays. The most common definition of a balanced team seems to be about having the right skills in a team, in relation to the work they’re engaged in doing.
“We welcome people who wear many hats (design, development, testing, product management, marketing and sales) and we value multi-disciplinary collaboration and iterative delivery focused on customer value as a source for innovation.”
~ From balancedteam.org
It sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it – having teams containing all the necessary skills to get the job done well? Like, a no-brainer, really. But is “balance” just a question of having a balance of skills? Some, like Emergenetics, suggest balance necessarily includes aspects like “thinking and behavioural attributes” too (this being in line with the work of e.g. Abraham Maslow and Meredith Belbin).
Recently, in helping folks to better understand the Antimatter Principle, I’ve come to realise that, perhaps above all, a team can only be effective, in context, when the needs of the folks in that team are balanced.
As an illustration, let’s say we have a team where each and every member has a need to write code (and nothing else). Realistic? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.
Anyways. Given such a team, inevitably – in order to ship the software – some members of the team will have to do things other than coding. On these non-coding tasks, the folks will not be getting their needs met. We could describe this team as unbalanced.
On the other hand, we might imagine a different team, one where folks’ needs better match the things that have to be done. In this team, there would be a better match between folks’ needs – in terms of what they spend their days doing – and what needs to be done for others.
Beyond the Team
The Antimatter Principle is not bound solely to the team and its own needs, of course. “What needs to be done for others” equates to “the needs of relevant folks outside the immediate team”.
The relevant other folks, such as sponsors and customers, have needs too. These are the needs – in part – that the team is attending to. Any notion of balance – for the team – might do well to address how well the needs of the folks inside the team mesh and interplay with the needs of the folks outside the team. And, more broadly, how well the needs of “suppliers” mesh with those of “customers”.
In those cases where the mesh is imperfect – and once we’re aware of the issue -we might choose to do what we can to adjust the “company of players” – i.e. the folks involved.
The Benefits of a Balanced Team ~ Emergenetics