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On Group Dynamics and Onboarding

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

What do dynasties like the Roman legions, the Chicago Bulls in the '90s, and Apple in the 2000s have in common? Well, they all formed from cohesive and winning teams. A winning team is built with a sufficiently long-lasting core, patient skill development, and targeted acquisitions whose significance is understood already during the procurement phase. Just ask Pep Guardiola. A strong internal identity smoothens out the sharpest edges of significant personalities, and results start to emerge.

Too often, when recruiting a Technical Manager, the matter is examined through the lens of a specific need, usually when there is already a sense of urgency. Chairman of the Board, Markku, emphatically declares that we need a technology roadmap and a credible leader with a Ph.D. and at least 15 years of experience in the relevant tasks. Exaggeratedly, one might think that the team instantly becomes as strong as the expertise, with the mindset of 4 + 1 = 5, and positive earnings warnings abound. But it's not quite like that.

In Edson Filho's Team Dynamics Theory, it is emphasized that a group is more than the sum of its parts. The results achieved by the group are determined by factors such as the strength of jointly formulated goals, collaboration among members, and members' commitment to a common mission. If individual members of the group are examined in isolation from the whole, as if in a portfolio of attributes, it is not possible to understand what these individuals are capable of together. To ensure effective and high-quality collaboration, each member of the group must adapt to the people around them, and in addition, everyone should work with their strengths. The equation is not always as simple as it seems on paper.

In the recruitment situation, the impact of a new member on the group is greater than just the professional substance that comes with their expertise. For this reason, decisions must be careful, and onboarding should receive at least as many resources as the recruitment itself. In the simplified version of onboarding, there are no particularly challenging sleight of hand tricks. We propose the following remedies:

  1. Strengthening common goals. No one should be unclear about what is being pursued.

  2. Sharpening collaboration among members. Involve the new team member in everything possible because the prerequisite for autonomous work is an understanding of each other's strengths.

  3. Open communication and information sharing about both projects and the "long game."

We have conducted several dozen onboarding processes over the years. Acting as interim HR, i.e., as consultants with clients, we become part of the company and thus identify the composition of the team. The personalities, operational culture, and perceptions of the team are always unique. These must be recognized, understood, and internalized. Only then can we talk with candidates during recruitment and assess the person's compatibility or the kind of value the individual brings. Let alone help in making a high-quality onboarding.

P.S., In the image of the blog post, a classic phase of onboarding is underway: handing over the laptop. According to our information, a significant portion of success stories also includes this phase.


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