The Right People

“It is better to first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where to drive.”
Jim Collins

In building a high-performance team, I often wondered about influencing the likelihood of success at the outset.  One of the supposedly controllable factors at the start is the selection of team members.  Being in the public sector as I am, often I don’t have a large say over the selection of team members – I’m highly dependent upon the appointments made by management above me.  Yet as my intuition tells me, and as mentioned as a key point in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off, and the right people in the right seats is critical to the success of a team and is one of the hallmarks of a high-performance team.  Therefore, in view of the constraints inherent in the public sector, what can I do to get the right people on the team?

Here is an outline of the methodology, with some further refinements to come, that I plan on using.  I recognize that my positional authority as team leader has little to no bearing on the selection process (i.e., I won’t be “drafting” members directly from the line organizations).  Therefore, at the heart of the plan is using an influence approach on the managers who will appoint members to the team.

The first step of influence is to be proactive with the managers on the importance of the work and caliber of people necessary to increase the likelihood of success of the team, and in turn each of their organizations due to the success of the team.  From there, I’ll outline the types of people needed, as follows:

1)  The Right Skills. I’m blessed to be in an organization of exceptionally talented individuals, ranging from college new-hires to seasoned veterans.  From that larger population of talented individuals, I will need those who have demonstrated excellence over time in certain technical skill areas relevant to the team’s purpose, which I’ll provide to the managers prior to the selection.  Call this the “hard skills.”  For determining fits, I’ll be relying upon descriptions of normal job duties and past experience.

2)  The Right Aptitude. I’ll screen the above for those who demonstrate behaviors conducive to a team setting and today’s environment.  For instance, people who have an open mind, ask questions, challenge the status quo, work well with others, believe in the future of our organization, are willing to work hard, etc.  Call this the “soft skills.”  For determining aptitude or preferences, I envision using one or more preference surveys, whether Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, DiSC, or whatever human resources recommends.

3)  The Right Instincts. I’m a firm believer that we all have natural talents that, when utilized, allow us to be our most effective as individuals.  When combined, an ideally diverse distribution of natural talents within the team will widen the overall problem-solving capabilities of the team itself.  Therefore, selecting a further subset of the above based upon a particular combination of natural talents will increase the diversity of natural problem-solving approaches.  For determining natural talents and instincts, I see using the Kolbe A index.

However, I recognize that no approach is perfect, so I also envision reserving the right to make slight, “onsie-or-twosie” adjustments to the team membership once the team is running, based upon demonstrated contributions.  The nature of the work to come does have a natural break between phase 1 and phase 2, so that would be the ideal time to make any adjustments needed in team membership.

As I envision it today, using the above three measures – the right skills, the right aptitude, and the right instincts – will increase the likelihood that I’ll get the right people on the bus and in the right seats at the outset.

What have I missed?  What factors would you use to influence the selection of members for a high-performance team?

The Right People