People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 14

References

Klein, Gary. "Performing a Project Premortem." Harvard Business Review, September 2007.

1

C O U N T E R P OINT

What To Do with
Prima Donnas on
the Team
By Intkhab Ali

A

s an IT manager, I'm used to
the freaks and weirdos that I
have had working for me (I
use these words affectionately). They
are demanding, quirky, and often keep
strange hours. I've had one person roll
into work more than once at the crack
of noon. I was generally thankful that
he came at all. He'd clearly demonstrated over time that-when he worked-it
was in spurts of absolute brilliance.
Many managers would not tolerate
this behavior because of its impact on
other team members. In truth, it did
trigger initial objections from my team.
Should this guy who got a perceived
sweet deal be considered a troublesome
prima donna who was bad for the team?
IT has a history of being filled with
troublesome, nonconformist people
who are only kept working because they
are indispensable. They may be the one
person who understands how a particular system works or rock stars with the
ability to solve challenging technical
problems. They may bridge business
from chaos to salvation when things
go wrong. Some of these employees
actually foster this dynamic by hoarding
knowledge so they can be heroes when
bad things happen.
I've had to manage all of the above
types of "indispensables." IT has had
this issue for decades because of the way
systems in companies have evolved. No
one person can know everything from
coding to security to database management to networking. In a mid- to
large-sized IT organization, people have
to specialize. The problem is arguably
worse in smaller companies where fewer
14

PEOPLE + STRATEGY

people hold more knowledge about idiosyncratic, shoe-string systems built with
sketchy standards and discipline.
What has improved today is that
astute managers see indispensable employees in IT as a risk more than a boon
and take active mitigation measures.
Whether it's the traditional "what if she
got hit by a bus?" risk or the negative
drain on team productivity, good
managers work to reduce the problem.
What's also improved is that culling is
no longer the first response. There is
more cross-training and moving disruptive employees to roles where they can
provide real benefit.
Which brings me back to my difficult
employee. The prima donna test I use is
a simple one. Two questions:
1. Is this person actually affecting
team productivity negatively?
2. Is the employee in question the
problem, or is it the environment
they are working in?
My guy was not a prima donna because I helped the team see that while
he wasn't always at the office, he was
always putting in more than his share
of hours. IT managers navigate a world
of weirdos, prima donnas, and seemingly indispensable staff-all the while
optimizing team effectiveness. Simple
questions, like the two I've shared, can
help with that navigation.
Intkhab Ali is a Business Solutions Architect at ISM Canada. He is based in Calgary
and can be reached at intkhab@aliis.com.

C OUNT E RPOINT

Navigating the
Tension Between
Individuals and
Teams
By David Creelman

R

eading Winsborough's piece
reminds me that teams are critical, and if you focus on individuals, you will undermine performance.
Unfortunately you can't enjoy that
thought for long before the opposite

idea surges into your head: The insight
that individuals are critical, and if you
focus on teams alone, you will undermine individual performance.
Faced with these conflicting ideas
we are led towards concluding that you
need to find a balance between individuals and teams. Sadly, that in itself
is rather empty advice. Furthermore,
balance isn't really the best metaphor,
it's too calm and too static. Better to
think of tensions pulling us in opposite
directions; our goal has to be to manage
those tensions, maybe even enjoy those
tensions, and find energy there.
How does one manage the tension?
I'd suggest there are three areas to consider: organizational analysis, reward,
and communication.
By organizational analysis we mean
management's understanding of what
drives performance in a specific unit
and based on that, how they manage.
For example, in hiring for a role do
they simply choose the person with the
best resume or do they hire the person
they think will fit in best with the existing team? Management should analyze
where team performance is key (such
as a start-up); where it's more effective
simply to focus on individuals (such
as a call center); and where the key to
success is the performance of a few stars
(such as commodities traders).



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2

From the Executive Editor
From the Guest Editor
Perspectives
Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
The Rise of Digital Team Building
Executive Roundtable
In First Person
Linking Theory + Practice
Insight into Action
Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Executive Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 5
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Guest Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 7
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Perspectives
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 9
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 10
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 11
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 12
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 13
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 14
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 15
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 17
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 18
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 19
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 20
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 21
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 23
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 24
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 25
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 26
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 27
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 28
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 29
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 31
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 32
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 33
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 34
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 35
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 37
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 38
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 39
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 40
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 41
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 43
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 44
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 45
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 47
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 48
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 49
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 50
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 51
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - The Rise of Digital Team Building
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 53
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 54
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 55
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Executive Roundtable
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 57
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 58
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 59
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 60
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 61
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - In First Person
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 63
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 64
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 65
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Linking Theory + Practice
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 67
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 68
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 69
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Insight into Action
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 71
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 73
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 74
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover4
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http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/HRPS/hrps_39_4_2016
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http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/HRPS/d47867_hrps_winter2015
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/HRPS/hrps_fall2014_teaser
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com