Driving Huskies or Herding Cats?

“Not only did we trust each other, not only did we respect each other, but we gave a damn about the rest of the people on this team. If we saw somebody vulnerable, we were there to help.”

An example from a great book – “The Wisdom of Teams – creating the high-performance organisation” by Katzenbach and Smith. It’s 25 years old, but just as relevant now as the day it was written.

I work with lots of teams from software and technology businesses, striving for great performance, but struggling to reach it – and I’ve led a few myself over the years. Mistrust is almost ubiquitous – but we seldom talk about it. And its often simply down to mis-communication and suspicion of other people’s agendas. The conversations required to overcome this mistrust are simple to understand but hard to conduct – so often it’s “well I’m being reasonable – it’s them!”

Consider this. The engineering team think the commercial team are purely focussed on short-term revenue, and will promise anything to customers, just to close the deal and get their commission. Robust language from the late, great Bill Hicks here, but to a first degree of approximation, this is what techies really, deep-down think of commercial folk:

The commercial team thinks the engineering team are just pie-in-the-sky dreamers, with no understanding or interest in doing what the customer needs in order to create revenue, and pay the bills.

A grain of truth? Probably. A counter-productive stereotype? Definitely.

Meanwhile, suspicion grows and teams fail to work together, support each other and do what the organisation really needs – understand how to create most value for customers and for the business, and deliver it. All the while, people are working harder and harder, and getting more and more frustrated. Not great.

There is a better way. I’ve been working with Sam Dods of Koru Ltd., and Cambridge Wireless to put together a short programme to help CEOs and leadership teams of growing tech companies to work through these issues – both the rational, and the irrational – and build alignment within their organisations. We’ve called it “Driving Huskies or Herding Cats?” and it will run over two afternoons in February and March 2018, at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge. To find out more and to register interest in the programme, click here.