Why your top IT specialists fail to deliver


Once you have recruited a high performer, how do you make sure that a person remains a high performer? IT performance is contextual; the way you organize employees will either increase or decrease team effectiveness. In other words, to get the best out of the people you have, you need to put them in a position where you can get the best out of them. In the wrong circumstances, even the best can fail to deliver.

In this article, we take a closer look at factors that have a negative effect on the individual and team performance.

Big differences within an IT team will decrease team effectiveness

A common belief in large IT organizations, and in other industries as well, is that a high performer will lift everyone else in a team and thereby increase team effectiveness. However, the problem with this kind of thinking is manifold.

Firstly, a high performer will probably not be able to deliver his or her best when put together in a team of average or mediocre IT specialists. Unless your high performer is recruited to be some sort of mentor for other IT developers, he or she will not get enough encouragement and inspiration from peers in order to deliver as expected.

Secondly, in order to thrive, employees need tasks that are challenging but still possible to achieve. In a team where there is a big difference between experiences, knowledge, and levels of expertise, some members will lose their motivation  because the tasks are too difficult, whereas others (your high performers) will lose their motivation because tasks are too easy. Both cases will have a negative effect on team performance and on the individual performance of your top IT specialists.

Finally, the IT sector is characterized by a high rate of change. To stay attractive to the job market, IT specialists need to keep pace with technological development. In a team with mediocre performers, chances of staying competitive in the long run are small, and in the end, the high performer is likely to  leave your company.

A negative IT culture will reduce team performance

A high performer will not be able to thrive in a negative IT culture. A work environment characterized by negativity, arrogance, egoism, or nepotism, for example, will have a detrimental effect on individual and team performance. Sometimes, even if the culture in the company as a whole is  positive, teams and departments can have their own dysfunctional subcultures. The opposite is of course also true – a positive IT culture will increase team effectiveness. 

Large teams will make communication complex and confusing

Small teams are more efficient than large teams. Generally in business, the optimal team size is five members. Adding more members to a team will multiply communication channels, thereby making projects much more complex and confusing. 

The number of communication channels can be calculated by using the formula N(N-1)/2, where “N” represents the number of team members. Thus, with five team members we have 10 communication channels. Adding three members to the team increases the communication channels to 28. Even the brightest people will soon start to suffer in such an environment, and so will team performance. 

An absent project owner will have a negative impact on team effectiveness

Even if you have composed a team of top talent, the team members cannot be left alone  trying to figure out what to do next or how to proceed with a project. They need to be in close contact with the project owner. It is often not so hard to come up with a great idea. The difficult part is execution. If the project owner is not working with the team on a continuous basis, team effectiveness is likely to deteriorate.

Unnecessary bureaucracy will get in the way of high team performance

Your IT department could very well be the most creative place in your company – it must constantly improve operations in order to maintain the company’s competitive edge on the market. Unnecessary bureaucracy will likely hit your IT department harder than other departments in your company. Creativity and innovation seldom go hand in hand with bureaucracy.

The IT department will, of course, need administrative support, but this support should not get in the way of high team performance or of the productivity of individual IT specialists.

Indirect factors could have a negative impact on team effectiveness

Factors that do not relate directly to how you organize employees could also make life difficult for your high performers. Examples include:

  • A rigid (instead of agile) development methodology
  • Legacy systems taking  up employees’ time without being strategic to the business
  • An IT architecture that does not enable reuse of code (your employees keep reinventing the wheel)

These factors could however take longer to change than factors that have a direct impact on team effectiveness, such as team size and closeness to the project owner.

IT performance is contextual

Consequently, there are many reasons why companies waste talent and why their top IT specialists fail to deliver. The common denominator is that IT performance is contextual. Under the wrong circumstances, anyone can fail.

Continue reading

Hiring the right person can have an exponential impact on your business.

Download a chapter for free

In the book Nucleon, Jeppe Hedaa introduces the first formula to measure the factors that hold back an organization’s IT performance, along with the most impactful areas for improvement.

Justine Welby
The Black Box of IT with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Jeppe Hedaa – Culture in Organisations

The Black Box of IT with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Jeppe Hedaa – Culture in Organisations

Other than conducting Harry and Meghan’s wedding… What does the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, have to say about culture in a multinational organisation? For organisational culture experts: This is an interesting alternative perspective, looking at the...