Friday, October 11, 2013

Teamwork's Just Another Word for Shifting Blame

Lyrics aren't TheHackerCIO's profession, but I'm sore tempted to write them about the evil Idol of "Teamwork." Perhaps, to the tune of that old standard, "Me & My Bobby McGee." Something like:

 "Shifting blame was easy, Lord, when we were screwed and blued ..." 


"Teamwork's just another word for Shifting All the Blame ... "

I know whenever I hear people singing praise to "Teamwork," that 5-9s of the time (i.e., 99.999%, for those of you unused to uptime claims), they are euphemistically referring to a Blame-shifting subterfuge, rather than a productive collaborative effort. 

Recently, for example, Beth Comstock angered TheHackerCIO with her conventional Whiz-Dumb -- so typical of the Bureaucratic Hidebound Enterprise (where TheHackerCIO has unfortunately spent the majority of his career) -- that "There is No Lone Genius; Hire a Team". 

Which, in response, elicited my very popular posting, Never Hire the Greatest Scientist The World Has Ever Known, mostly focused on Newton, but which could just as well be generalized to "Never Hire the Greatest Minds the World Has Ever Seen," and broadened to include many other notables, including Rene Descartes, or, in more modern times,  Einstein, who noted of himself:

"I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork; for well I know that to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person should do the thinking and commanding" [ref: here]

Can you envision the HR department interview? So, Mr. Einstein, are you a Team player? 

So many today seem to worship at the alter of the "Team Player." In my experience, the "Team Player," is either one who is too junior to work independently, without senior direction and supervision, or one who wishes to have others involved in his work products, so that blame is either difficult to assess or to attribute to one agent. I can't really see any other advantage to it. 

As the reference cited notes, this also was the belief of Descartes, the founder of Analytic Geometry among myriad other things. He noted in his Meditations, as summarized here, that:

"the works of individuals are superior to those conceived by committee because an individual’s work follows one plan, with all elements working toward the same end. He considers that the science he learned as a boy is likely flawed because it consists of the ideas of many different men from various eras." 

Frankly, anyone can verify these claims very simply: just sit on a committee. Almost any committee will do. But, especially, on a "Steering Committee." You wouldn't allow a committee to steer your car, bus, or plane, but suddenly everyone goes mystically silent when someone proposes the same thing for directing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of technology and equipment. Wreckage everywhere is the result, uniformly. 

None of this means that there isn't value to be found from collaboration. But, the benefit that does accrue comes from and is made possible by the individual achievement of the actors involved. Individual achievement is a "basic." It's a fundamental. It's a basis, on top of which collaborative synergies can layer in and develop. To put that down is to destroy the very underpinnings of achievement. Only an HR department can do that effectively. 

I Remain, With Single Harness, 


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