Typically when you think about building a team for your company you hire individuals who will make up the team. Then the team either gels or it doesn’t. If the team doesn’t gel you need to find replacement members. If a team does work out, that’s great, but then maybe you feel the need to break up the team for some reason. Promote some people, maybe a little reorganization, who knows, but then your team that was working great isn’t a team any more and…you’re hiring replacement members. Then the team has to gel again…or not…
Why is that though? Why do we hire members of teams individually? Why can’t you hire a whole team at once? The answer is that we haven’t started thinking in that way yet and there aren’t pre-made teams (who already work like a well-oiled machine) available for hire to work permanently in your company. But maybe that should change.
According to Dave Aron in his Harvard Business Review article—The Future of Talent Is in Clusters—it might be time to take a page from the military and the film industry and start building—and marketing—stable, cohesive teams who can be hired (and fired) as a single unit.
This is a pretty radical idea. Heck we don’t even have a way to manage this kind of system—even if such teams were available for hire. Radical, yes. Worth a look? Maybe.
According to Dave Aron’s post his idea is bigger than something like embedded consultants or hiring a group of consultants it’s more like hiring a team of freelance mercenaries who work and travel as a unit. Think of it like you need a team of crack designers to work for you. You need a group of people who already know how to work with each other and have all the skills of needed to work independently. You could drop them into any company and they can assess the situation and start working. They don’t need to set up processes for working, they have them. They don’t need to learn new skills or technology, they already know when they need for the job (and probably more).
But could it work in practice?
While I think the idea of a bringing in an entire team sounds great, would that team connect with the larger company or would they always be “Marketing Team Alpha” and their own cohesive unit? From the business side, I see the “Okay here’s our team, you take all of us or none of us. This is what we cost, what we expect, and how we work.” being a little hard to swallow. Maybe some companies might like the idea of getting an entire team in one fell swoop instead of building a team over time, but I have my doubts the system where the team would come and go as a unit would work. Imagine one day your entire creative department saying that they are done with the job and it’s time to leave.
From a freelancer’s perspective finding a group of people with all the skills you need, who you also trust with your entire financial wellbeing, and can work with all the time—that might be even harder to pull off. However…
I think the idea is appealing to many of us because we know that when you have a team that really, really works you want to keep them together, keep them happy, and give them the tools they need to succeed, business takes off too. So the larger, and more important question/point, isn’t if we should switch to this cluster teams approach, but how to get our new hires and thrown together teams to gel like a special forces mercenary unit with loyalty, trust, and high achievement?