Build plans around people, not the other way around

One of my takeaways from First, Break All The Rules is that different people have different talents, and talents (as opposed to skills and knowledge) are not teachable.

So when we’re putting a team together, we shouldn’t make a plan and then see who we have to fill in the seats. We should start from the other end: see who’s available and then build the plan around their talents.

To give some tactical examples:

  • Don’t decide you need a tech lead and then see who can fill that role. Instead, see who’s available for the team and then decide if you even want a tech lead. Maybe the team has the right set of talents to make that role unnecessary?
  • Don’t decide it’ll be a Scrum team before the team exists. Instead, see who’s available for the team and build the process framework around them. Maybe loose Kanban is enough if the team is talented with focus and strategy?
  • Don’t decide how two teams should coordinate before they’re formed. Instead, see who’s available for the teams and build the communication strategy around them. If members of both teams are friends with each other and talented in communication, then you may not need any formality at all?

Don’t build a plan and then fill it in with people like cars in a parking lot. Flip it around. Identify the people and then plan around their specific talents and experience.

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