Friday, July 3, 2015

Super Bowl Teams in Technology

I coached a team of 12 year old girls learning to play basketball. When we all showed up I was learning to coach and most of them had never played before. I was fortunate enough to be in a league where there I got a lot of training for coaches. The girls learned basic skills. I'll admit it took me a bit to figure out how to reign in the chaos and what worked.

When we got to the games we had one little all star. But these girls were 12. The point was to let everyone learn to play and have fun, not to win the league championship. Everyone got equal playing time. Even Michael Jordan didn't make it when he first tried out for basketball. Everyone starts somewhere.

From there I went on to coach Sonics kids camps. We coached everyone from students that got good grades to Special Olympics kids. Everyone got to play equally because these camps were for learning and training and having fun. 

When you progress in sports to different levels, the stakes are higher. The point of the game changes. Eventually as you move up the ladder through high school, college and onto professional, the way teams are selected changes. The outcome of the game has a lot of money or prestige associated with it. 

Not everyone gets to do what they want, gets paid the same, or gets equal playing time.


Because at this level the point of the game is to win.

Now in order to win you have to not only have a team of rock stars, you have to have rock star coaches and players that all have the same objectives. If someone on the team doesn't align with the objectives then likely that team will suffer. Some players might have personal agendas or be trying to be the top dog which hurts other members of the team. Some players may not have the skills to compete at a certain level and bring down your team as a whole. 

So what happens at that level? People with skills get paid. A lot. And players are strategically traded to try to find a team with the right balance of skills. And coaches coach - to win.

Caveat: just because you don't have the top rock stars doesn't mean you can't win in all circumstances. If you have a good coach and players who listen, you can upset the apple cart. I watched my dad coach a team of farm girls that beat all the city kids in a grade school basketball league championship. He took his clip board and studied all the other teams. Then he came up with a winning strategy and led his team to victory. I would venture a guess the other teams had more athletic looking kids with more raw talent. That's what a good strategy can do for you.

That's what start ups do to big companies.

Winning in IT in today's environment encompasses a great deal of understanding of the technical and business landscape in whatever market you are in. That would be offense.

But a winning team also requires good defense. That would be security. If you don't protect your assets all your hard work on offense is lost. If you are giving too much free reign without understanding the threats and liabilities that exist then there's a good chance there's a wide open path to your end zone.

The people working on critical infrastructure that supports all your teams need to understand both offense and defense - and have the skills to implement or the ability to play with the players that have complementary skills to their own. The people on offense need to listen to the people on defense. And the people on defense need to do their jobs without blocking the offense. Otherwise you won't score.

If you want to win the Super Bowl it's not just about letting everyone play. You need a good team with top skills - sharing the same objectives. And a solid strategy. Choose the right players and coaches. Understand their strengths and weaknesses. Understand the game. Understand the competition. Adjust as needed.

But then it all depends what your objective is - do you want to win the Super Bowl? Or are you just playing for fun?