Two people on a plane. One looks over to the other, points, and laughs! “Ha! Ha! Your wing is on fire!”
The plane goes down and they both die. Bummer. This has always been how I introduce the importance of team results instead of individual results as a management technique. And, when this works well, teams excel instead of just trudging along.
An individual should not “Succeed” if their team fails.
Last week I was introduced to yet another perspective on this problem by Tim Ottinger. Instead of asking how many tasks can a person do, we invert the question and ask “how many minds can work together to solve this problem?” The idea behind this wasn’t obvious to me, so let me explain briefly.
How many minds does this task need?
In general we think of a task as either done or not done. And, in the lean world, we think of throughput as volume delivered to the customer. There is a more effective way of thinking of throughput – as value delivered to the customer. And two items delivered to the customer may have more value. In fact, especially in knowledge work, the value delivered by the same feature in two different applications may be completely different.
Throughput should not be defined as volume delivered to the customer.
Many tasks can be done much better – that is deliver much more value to the customer – by having many minds work to solve the problem. That’s why pair programming works. That’s also why self organizing teams, when they get it right, can create much more value than the same number of individuals working in a different fashion.
Tasks can deliver different value to the customer depending on how well we solved the task.
In summary, the value delivered by a task completed is not static. That can be affected by the number of people who work on solving the task together. So, before you do your next task, consider asking “how many minds does this task need?”