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Team Matching Creates Incentives
Buried in this tweet by Gergely Orosz is an interesting quote: “Team matching was very frustrating for hiring managers.”
Briefly, team matching is the process where hiring an employee is separated from the decision of which team the new employee will join. Back when I was a wee engineer, I was always interviewed & approved by the team I was to join. When I got to Facebook in 2011 I was surprised to find that 1) I would be hired without having a team assigned and 2) I had significant control over which team I would join.
One theory behind team matching is that engineers work significantly better if they are excited about what the problem they are addressing. Since most can’t know pre-employment which problem they will find most motivating, late binding to teams increases overall motivation & thus effectiveness.
Impact on Managers
As the quote above highlights, team matching creates challenges for managers. What if you are managing a team & no one picks you? What if all the new candidates try out working with you & your team & decide to apply their talents elsewhere? Well, what happens is that your team’s performance dwindles & you’re out of a job.
You can react a couple of ways to this. You can go back to early/forced team choice. You’ll see shorter & shorter lists of “approved” teams, even if the trappings of team matching remain. Eventually you’re left with Hobson’s Choice.
What I saw at early(-ish) Facebook, though, was that if executives hold the line on team matching, it creates powerful incentives for managers to improve. To survive in the competition for talent:
Managers need to articulate a vision for why their team’s scope is important.
Managers need to find & communicate ways for new team members to meaningfully contribute.
Managers need to encourage the growth & development of existing team members (team members do most of the work selling the team to prospects).
Managers need to avoid the most egregious bad behavior—the bathroom telegraph broadcasts managerial abuse.
I can imagine the frustration of a manager unable to do one or more things on this list. As an executive or investor, I want the manager to learn & grow. It’s not my job to free their job of frustration. Nor is it my job to shield unskilled managers from the consequences of their shortcomings.
I like that team matching frustrates some managers. Those are the managers I want to frustrate, even as I offer them coaching & training to improve their skills.