TeamFit should be used by anyone who wants a deeper understanding of their own skills and the skills of the people they work with. The most common way this information is used is to find people for teams and to build the best team to deliver a project.

This makes sense for conventional projects, where there are well-defined goals and the project has a clear start and end. But there are more and more projects these days that do not meet these criteria. These projects are more open ended, goal seeking rather than goal delivering, and we need to be able to build teams that can deliver on these projects as well.

Management by Discovery

Goal seeking projects are very different from our standard understanding of projects and project management. Goals and schedules can change, and with them the tasks and who get assigned to do what. Decision scientist Gary Klein has suggested that we need to manage these projects through Management by Discovery.

Management by discovery

In management by discovery the team has an initial hypothesis as to what the goals should be, but as they work on the problem they discover new goals that are more relevant and compelling. Klein introduced this approach in his wonderful book Streetlight and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making. He contrasted it with Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives (a modern version of this is Google’s OKR or Objectives and Key Results approach).
Some may complain that management by discovery leads to “moving the goal posts in the middle of the game” and that this “makes it impossible to build a project schedule” and “much more difficult to manage risk.”

Yes, Yes and No.

Yes – this is moving the goal posts during the game. But that is what business is like. New competitors emerge (you go into the game ready for a game of baseball and it morphs into a game of soccer, but one of the opposing teams decides they are better off playing rugby and picks up the ball and starts to run). Market needs change (as anyone who built a business plan around $100 per barrel oil knows). The underlying technology shifts (companies with on-premised licensed software are finding is almost impossible to compete with subscription based cloud services).

Yes – this makes it almost impossible to schedule work. So you have to work on short cycles and reassess after each cycle. The software industry tries to solve this through Agile Development. It is worth rereading the principles behind agile development, as they are relevant to all sorts of work. From the Agile Manifesto:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

No – this does not make it more difficult to build a project schedule and manage risk. In fact it leads to more realistic schedules and better risk management. Scheduling becomes adaptive and responsive to the changing environment. Not a project death march doomed to fail. Risk is often goal-related and changing goals can be an effective way to manage risk.

Modern leadership research reinforces this approach. The MIT Four Capabilities Leadership Model (see this great interview with Deborah Ancona on the Four Capabilities Model) identifies four capabilities that modern leaders (and teams) need. Each of these is critical to management by discovery: sensemaking, visioning, relating and inventing.

Can we use TeamFit to find people for a goal seeking team? We could start by searching for the four MIT capabilities.

In the current database, only one person came up for a search on ‘sensemaking.’ It is interesting to see what other skills this person has.

Roland Childe

“Visioning” found two people.

People and Skills

TeamFit makes it easy to compare their skill sets.

Skill comparison

“Relating’” drew a blank. Perhaps it is too abstract a term for people to use in real work situations. The same was true of “inventing.”

What other skills would you look for when building a goal seeking team? Frameworks that are associated with exploring and solving problems might be relevant. These are the sorts of skills that tend to show up in TeamFit.

  • Design Thinking
  • Scenario Planning
  • Systems Thinking
  • Agile Project Management

“Design Thinking” for example came up with 154 matches.

People and Skills 2 - matches

Or you might look for more general characteristics of people. TeamFit has not been very good on picking up on this sort of thing to date, but we are thinking about how to solve this, as it is critical to building modern teams.

  • Consensus Building
  • Storytelling
  • Flexibility
  • Openness