Friday, January 23, 2015

Portmantoad

Not since the spork has a portmanteau been as beloved by the tech industry as the acqui-hire. These days, it seems like the best way to get a job at a big-name Silicon Valley company is to start your own small, insignificant company and wait to get acquired.
For Sale: Team. Used but in good condition.

There is some debate over whether or not the practice of buying a company just to get its employees really works. I think the biggest benefit has to be the fact that the larger company can immediately get a team of people who already work well together. If they can keep that team together and redirect them to some other (possibly related) project, it could be much easier than trying to put together a new team. The downside is that they may be paying more for the team that it is really worth.

I believe team dynamics have been overlooked for too long when explaining why some projects succeed and others fail. But think about your own experiences. I know when I have been forced to work with people who just didn't get along, it didn't matter how talented each of us might have been individually. The project fell apart. That doesn't mean that anyone in particular was to blame, but the team as a whole just wasn't right for the task.

But when I am able to pick my own team, or when I work with friends on a project, it seems like nothing can go wrong! Or at least, nothing that we can't overcome.

Getting the right team together is difficult. When a company is small, the team grows by current employees getting their friends to come join them. Thus the team tends to work well together. At a large company, a team can be formed by a manager picking people out of a database of names and skills. It doesn't have to be like that, however. If the manager had access to some sort of personality profiles along with skill profiles, algorithms could be used to select better teams. It would be a bit like online dating - employees fill out profiles and get matched up with other employees with whom they would work well. I am not aware of any companies that have tried this, although there may be some.

The frogs have their own unique take on this practice today.

Amphibian.com comic for 23 January 2015