Why You Don’t Need Superhero Developers

No Superhero

Image source (prior to modification): beliefsoftheheart.com

Most of us have worked with that one software developer whom the entire team looked up to when in crisis, the one who would come through despite obstacles, the one who would have answers to everything. To borrow a phrase from Star Wars, he was “the Chosen One” (I just had to get a Star Wars quote in). There is nothing wrong with the above except that it is “one person”. If your software strategy is hinged on one person, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment (and possibly failure).

While it is great that you have a superhero in your team who delivers when needed, what you really need are more everyday heroes. And not those one-man-army type ones but the ones who can work with a team and use their skills in harmony with others a la Fast and Furious. Yes, in a team with diverse skills and competencies, not everyone can work on everything. But it should not be the case that it is just one guy bailing the team out every time. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not advising a culture of mediocracy. In fact, I furiously fought against a culture of mediocracy at some of the organisations I worked for previously. I am all for making superheroes out of regular joes. All I am saying is that a culture dependent on superheroes to deliver instead of a team to do its job is a wrong culture.

It is not just about contingency planning (your superhero is sick or worse, leaves the company), it is also about building a culture where all the team members feel equally important and responsible. To take the analogy of Indian cricket team a few years back, some opening batsmen would play fast and loose because they knew Sachin Tendulkar (one of the best batsmen in the world) would be there to score big time if they fail. And fail they did. And when Sachin failed too, India lost the match.

We have been raised in a culture where it is good to be a maverick. Most of the movies of our times highlight that fact. But I would almost always give preference to a well-performing, highly-cohesive team of regular heroes than one that is dependent on its superhero. As the old African saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”.

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