World Series Special Edition: The Importance of ‘Team’ in Software

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

When they all sat down to evaluate what happened, they realized for an important job to be done, it would take everyone to be successful.

After 20+ years in the HCM space I can confidently say that software is a team sport – it truly requires everyone to be successful. When thinking about The MLB World Series, a quote from Babe Ruth comes top of mind when he said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

What Baseball Continues to Teach Us about the Importance of Teams in Software

For me, the World Series is one of the most wonderful times of year—especially when one of the two teams is yours! Center stage a juggernaut against an upstart with storming comebacks, and a battle of starting rotations that all leave it on the field knowing it’s “win the best of seven or go home” …I can’t get enough of it. And beyond the game, I appreciate the reminding of its teachings, well beyond the field.

As a former basketball coach and current head coach of GR8 People, I love the fundamentals. The smart, strategic, methodical team play common in disciplined basketball, a philosophy that I came to believe as the epitome of good play. Showy dunks and great players were fine, but solid team basketball by players with strong fundamental skills and teamwork was always more highly valued in my mind.

Truth be told, I loved coaching. I loved the strategy, the student-athletes, and designing the different game plans for every game. I loved fitting the right players into the right roles, and more than anything, I loved watching the growth of the players, the execution of the plans, and how our program was everything about ‘playing for something bigger’ than themselves.

This year’s World Series, with an extra exclamation point on the Philadelphia Phillies, reminds me of the importance of teams and the value they bring to great teams—baseball and software—that display key attributes on a consistent basis including:

1. Trust.
The teams that ultimately make it to the World Series will prove that it’s not only about having the best players, but rather, aligning them towards the same goal is paramount to success.Trust among teammates is essential to winning, both on the field and in the workplace.

2. Shared Leadership.
Teams that have been successful and made it to the post-season display shared leadership skills. I describe shared leadership when two or more individuals on a team share responsibility for directing it toward its goals. As players on teams work together, each of them takes on a leadership role, whether it’s hitting a deep ball to drive in a run, laying the perfect bunt to advance another player, or turning a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Everyone on the team must work together to win and move on to the next game.

3. Solid Foundations.
Fundamentals Matter. The teams that make it to the World Series don’t get there by chance. They win—and that takes skill, teamwork, dedication, and hard work. But, most of all, it’s about executing the fundamentals. Their work ethic on the field is a reflection of their work ethic in practice. It’s about being your best, giving your best, and doing all that you can to help your team win. When teams fail to remember the basic tenets of leadership—hard work, honesty, selflessness, etc.—it makes weak an otherwise strong team.

4. Underdog Mentality.
Often during the World Series an underdog emerges that captures the limelight. Baseball fans long remember the underdogs. If there’s one thing underdogs know how to do, it’s hustle. With underdogs, many times their default answer is “yes.” Yes, I can learn how to do that. Yes, I can make that happen. Yes, that is possible. Underdogs are scrappy, Rocky Balboa types who have nowhere to hide and will always carry it on their individual shoulders. Underdogs think quick on their feet and know that being all things to all people is not a strong position to be in–they believe in their teammates, see fast balls coming a little more slowly, and they strategically think ahead about their next moves.

So, back to the theme—The Importance of ‘Team’ in Software.  What is evident to me, every day, is the importance of playing ‘good baseball’ or ‘good software’… as a team. As important as individual contributions are, these mean nothing without efforts of the team as a whole. Sales has nothing to sell without marketing to promote the product. There is no product without development. Product has no value without the teams to implement, train and support. Lastly, customers don’t get to experience your amazing product and team without the efforts of everyone on your roster.

And finally, how do you know if you are successful in operating as a winning World Series team? Your customers! They are the true reflection of your success, and if you build your software with team and customers squarely in the center of the strike zone, you’ll be hitting homeruns all day long!