Focus on building 10x teams, not on hiring 10x developers

There are a lot of posts out there about identifying and hiring 10x engineers. And a lot of discussion about whether or not these people even exist. At Spool, we’ve taken a very different approach. We focused on building a 10x team.

We believe that the effort spent trying to hire five 10x developers is better spent building one 10x team.

10x matters because of the Economics of Superstars

The “Economics of Superstars” observes that in some industries, marginally more talented people/groups generate exponentially more value [0]

The Economics of Superstars phenomenon requires a distribution channel to move a large volume of goods. For superstar athletes, television enables endorsements and merchandise sales. For software developers, the Internet enables scalable distribution of digital goods.

Finding a way to be 10x better than median can now generate exponentially more value for people who make digital goods.

In software, the superstar is the team, not the individual

In the Economics of Superstars, if an individual has tremendous control over the outcome (points scored in a basketball game), that individual is the beneficiary. So Kobe gets a big chunk of the value he generates for the team, stadium, and advertisers.

Software development, however, is more like rowing. It’s a team sport that requires skill and synchronization. This applies at all scales. On a three-person boat, one person out of sync will stall your boat. As you get bigger, no single developer can impact your team’s performance, so again synchronization is key.

Making your team as efficient as possible is what determines long-term success. [1]

A bunch of 10x people != A 10x team

Most hiring processes assume that if you find a great developer and put them on a great team, the individual and team will do well. Good teams try to nail down “culture fit” but this is usually only based on whether the candidate gets along with the team.

Throwing together a bunch of great developers who get along does not make for a 10x team.

How to Think About Building a 10x Team

Building a 10x team is a different task than trying to make an existing team 10x more efficient. The hardest part about building a 10x team is that who you need next is a moving target because it’s a function of who is already on the team.

The following are the top three non-technical questions we (Spool) ask ourselves when considering a candidate:

  • Does this person extend the team’s one strategic advantage? Successful startups do NOT have world class design, engineering, sales, and marketing all at once. They tend to be phenomenal at one thing and competent at the rest. Eventually they upgrade talent for “the rest.” For example, Zynga first nailed virality with crappy graphics, then later upgraded their art teams.
  • Is there enough shared culture? – Communication overhead will cripple most teams. Hiring people with a common culture is the simplest way to solve this problem. For example, alums of a university tend to use the same  jargon, think similarly, know the same programming languages, etc.. They will communicate naturally and are free to focus on higher order problems. It’s not a surprise that Paypal was mostly UIUC, for example. At Spool we’ve consciously hired mostly Stanford alums because Curtis and I are Stanford grads. Update: I apologize if I gave the impression that we don’t value diversity. As you can read in the comments, we’ve gone out of our way to build a diverse team. But there are many things that don’t impact your success early that you can short-circuit by picking people who have a similar enough background. Goldilocks Principle ftw 🙂
  • Does this person make other people better? A friend once told me that the best hire he made was a mistake. Had he properly screened this candidate’s technical ability, he wouldn’t have hired the candidate. But it turned out this engineer was so driven that he immediately made everyone else on the team more driven. Just by hiring him, the team became more productive, which far outweighed that individual being an average engineer. It’s sometimes worth trading off some technical ability to get a multiplier for your whole team.

What sorts of people make other people better?

When we were building Spool’s founding team, we looked for people who were technically solid but especially good at making other people around them better. The following are the types of people we identified that do this. There are probably others.

  • The Lead Engineer  sets the technical standard. She will conduct the hardest interviews and will generally work technical magic. She will raise everyone’s technical bar. This is usually what someone says when they mean 10x developer.
  • The Hustler will bend the rules a little when need be, find loopholes in a system, find people you need to find, hack together systems to extract data, and set the standard for just getting things done. She challenges everyone’s thinking about how to get things done.
  • The Little Engine That Could refuses to lose. She manages to do great things through sheer determination. Sometimes she will tell you about this in an interview, but many times you will need to dig into someone’s background to get a read on this. She makes everyone else more driven, focused, and makes them believe great things are possible.
  • The Teacher soaks up and disseminates information. A teacher is constantly learning new technologies or synthesizing large amounts of information. She then distills the critical points and actively shares them with others. She makes everyone more productive almost immediately. This adds up tremendously over the years.
  • The Anti-Pinochio  is willing to call b.s. on anyone, including the CEO. She is great at spotting b.s. and willing to ask questions of anyone. This keeps a team honest and a company transparent. This is different from being an asshole or a heretic.
  • The Energizer Bunny throws herself into a task fully and doesn’t have an off switch. She gets everyone to give 100% and is so enthused that everyone else becomes enthused. She sets the bar for effort and make everyone want to work harder just so they don’t disappoint her. This extends outside work too. She’ll be the first person at the party, the last one to leave, and will make everyone have more fun every day. Happy, enthusiastic teams are productive teams.
  • The Heart – this is the person on the team that everyone misses when she’s not around. She’ll bring cookies in for the office, she will remember birthdays, she will make people feel better when they’re down, and she will make people do great things because she’s just so lovable. People want to come to work to see this person everyday. Just having people look forward to showing up every day is a huge productivity boost.
In the following diagram, each color is a team-member rated from 1-10 on these characteristics. You can see that there’s a big hole with no color. I would gladly say no to a traditional 10x engineer to get one person with tremendous grit/determination on this team.

These personalities all play off each other. For example, a Teacher loves working with an Energizer Bunny because there is someone around to soak up all of that knowledge she shares. Or a Hustler and Lead Engineer can combine to uncover a new distribution channel because they iterate fast and are ruthless. As a result of having these people, you get massive productivity gains from complementary personalities and abilities. Combine these with your favorite/appropriate software development methodologies and you’ve got a killer team.

I’m sure there are other people who have techniques for building 10x teams. And the dynamics of what makes for a great team are going to be different across industries and stages of company. If you’re reading this and have thoughts, please do leave a comment. I’d love to incorporate it into our hiring practices.


Thanks to Curtis SpencerChristine TieuAditya Koolwal, Chandra Patni, Daniel WitteShazad Mohamed, Blake Scholl for reading drafts of this and providing input.

[0] – More on the Economics of Superstars

For example, Kobe Bryant is in the 99.999th percentile of ability, while the median NBA player is in the 99.99th percentile. For that small percentile improvement in ability, Kobe Bryant generates millions more in ticket sales, merchandise, concessions, and tv advertising for his team. This pattern repeats every where and is starting to appear with software development teams and startups. If you’re good, you can be Facebook, Google, Dropbox, etc. If you’re not, you can’t get a series A to get off the ground.

[1] Evidence building 10x teams matters more than finding 10x individuals

[2] – “Crazy” offers from Google/Twitter/Facebook/etc.

Historically, engineer/product manager/designer salaries have been relatively constrained (red line below). This is because we lacked an efficient distribution mechanism to take advantage of their special talents, so teams had to be very large to achieve scale and no individual could easily have massive impact.

But we are experiencing the beginnings of a world where the Economics of Superstars applies for small 10x teams because a small team can use Internet distribution as leverage. What is really interesting is that retention packages now are not about the individual. They are about keeping 10x teams together. The people who are really getting great retention bonuses are the people who make 10x teams possible. They are either the leaders in a product or engineering organization that know how to build 10x organizations, or they are the employees who make everyone around them better, or they are key employees whose departure would be seen as a signal that the team is no longer a 10x team. These packages are also a defensive move to prevent competitors from acquiring the building blocks that enable 10x teams. Losing key members of a team will result in other members leaving, and will enable the competitor to aggregate a team that operates like a 10x team. It’s not about the individual; it’s about team dynamics.

Another example from Google is how well they reward great teams and keep them together. Google’s Founder Awards disproportionately reward the best teams internally for exceptional accomplishments.

It seems like we’re moving to a world where a great team of developers can make $300k+/year each. But not by just walking in the front door — it really messes with team dynamics and manager-employee dynamics to hire people with those sorts of salaries. But rewarding a team and keeping great teams together is much easier to justify.

How the Economics of Superstars will play out for 10x Teams

[3] – More on Talent Acquisitions: Talent acquisitions are like record contracts

Startups eliminate the guess work that a large organization has in identifying teams with 10x ability. The startup ecosystem is as close to a meritocracy as we have — no bureaucracy, no legal department, no recruiting pipeline, minimal funding required to get started, etc. If a five-person team manages to build something and get any traction, they’ve accomplished something tremendous.

Identifying startups with 10x teams, is like a scout going through YouTube to find the next great band. If you find raw talent and give it the right platform (publicity, marketing, new instruments), you can turn that talent into something huge. Industries that have recognized their industry operates under the economics of superstars take these bets regularly – think about the English Premiere League, NBA, music industry, film industry, publishing industry, etc. If a bet pays off, you get Ronaldinho or The Beatles. Would you have given the following talented band $1 million/year and have full rights to all of the revenue they generated?

The Beatles before they were The Beatles

(This is The Beatles before they were The Beatles)

Again, because software is complex and you need teams to execute, the value aggregates in the team, not the individual. You rarely see Google hiring random individuals for $2.5 million over 4 years. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, etc. are paying to keep teams together and working on the things they’ve developed expertise in. These acquirers understand that it’s about finding 10x teams and giving them the resources of a bigger company. $10 million for four people over 4 years is worth it for many acquirers, because the incoming team has to be marginally better and the result will be exponential value generated for the acquiring company .

148 thoughts on “Focus on building 10x teams, not on hiring 10x developers

  1. This is a wonderful dissection of how hiring should work. I was writing a similar post, but based on anecdotal evidence, not any particular data or theory.

    Glad to see we came to the same conclusion though!


    1. Hi Hong: it’s me…
      True but there are some assumptions. The Stanford people where the authors came from are good people in addition to being smart. They probably have great success in hiring Stanford people as do most companies like Google, etc.. Usually the Stanford kids come from good families so they have predictable behavior and they are ethical for the most part. Smart is good, variation in personality types are good but there can’t be character defects which hinder the person from growing. That is the biggest problem I see in trying to weed out people you don’t want to hire. And once you have them they create hell and are difficult to get rid of.

  2. I just love your personalities diagram, I was thinking of something similar for a “create your startup” game so you can show each person attributes.

    Good reading 🙂

  3. I agree with the greater importance of the team than the individual, but over the years I’ve carried a number of project on my back, I was the one individual who made the difference between success and failure. I’ve written more code than the rest of my team combined and I always worked on the most difficult pieces. Building a great team puts the kudos only on the manager while often the success of a project comes down to an individual. It shouldn’t work that way, but often it does, and I know my experience is in no way unique! So please don’t forget the impact of individuals.

    1. But what if the manager had organised a 10x team? Then you would not have had to take projects on your back like that, and perhaps those projects would have been more successful? It sounds like you were a 10x developer in a <<10x team? Would you not have preferred to be a 10x developer surrounded by a team that supported you more?

  4. Teams on average can be 4 times more effective rather than 10x. I believe this number is taken from Steve McConnell’s Rapid Development. Or maybe its Peopleware.

  5. It seems that you are advocating hiring more “people like us”. It might well be a good recipe for doing more of what you have done, but seems a poor way to foster innovation and would lock minorities out of the industry.

    1. Not at all. My apologies if I gave that impression. Our team has 2 women out of 7 (which is extremely rare in early stage technology companies), 2 out of 7 are not US Citizens, 5 out of 7 are non-white men…we’ve gone to great lengths to create a diverse team. If anything, you can only get a diversity of personalities I advocate for in the post by looking outside the typical candidate pool.

      1. I think Paddy is saying that hiring teams that think within a paradigm will not foster innovative thinking, because everyone is “thinking like us”. The minority Paddy is talking about is the person who does not think like the rest of the team. I may have interpreted it wrong, but that is what I thought Paddy was saying…nothing to do with ethnic groups.

      1. I think Paddy is saying that hiring teams that think within a paradigm will not foster innovative thinking, because everyone is “thinking like us”. The minority Paddy is talking about is the person who does not think like the rest of the team. I may have interpreted it wrong, but that is what I thought Paddy was saying…nothing to do with ethnic groups.

  6. I have to say that I love this post, but I want to get a little bit more clarification from you. Can you elaborate on how you see the little engine that could being different from the energizer bunny? How is not having an off switch different from never knowing when to quit? How do they look different in the daily work? Is the little engine that could the guy that gets the loose ball in sports? Is the energizer bunny the person that just seems to never run out of energy while the LETC never gives up but takes time to rest?

    1. Willis,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my (long) post.

      I look at an Energizer Bunny as someone who has tremendous work ethic and energy. They work harder than anyone else, day in and day out. They may get discouraged, they may need to be cheered up, they may need to be coached on how to funnel all of that energy. The guy who goes after every lose ball is a great analogy for the Energizer Bunny.

      A Little Engine is someone who just doesn’t get discouraged when faced with hardship. It’s a different perspective on life. They may not be the hardest worker on a team but they will persevere through anything. The entire team will fail but then get back up and try again because this is the first person ready to try again. This is more like someone who goes back to the locker room after a bad game and says, “The next game is ours guys. We can win.”

      I agree, these two people are often very similar but they’re actually two distinct traits. Someone who works really hard can be easily discouraged if they don’t see immediate progress, for example.

  7. I don’t want to sound rude, you’re probably just a young guy that thinks it’s a good way to get your point across, but when I hear sports analogies I get nervous. They seem to always indicate narrow or shallow perception.

    1. You didn’t want to sound rude, but you did it anyway huh? Sports analogies are useful for things like commenting on a blog post because they are nearly ubiquitous in the US because of how simple they are to understand. That makes them well suited for this media because I am not sure what types of more complicated or deep analogies will make sense to the other person. Of course, it wouldn’t make much sense to construct a more complete analogy when probing for more information about a personality type that was summarized in three sentences. Still, I do appreciate your concern.

    2. Thanks for taking the time to read the post.

      I think when you’re talking about team dynamics, sports are a great class of analogy because they are something a lot of people understand intuitively. If you’ve ever played on a soccer or basketball team then you know what I mean when I say there’s always one person on a team that is an Energizer Bunny. And that person just makes you run harder. It is very easy to overuse them though. If there’s a place where I overuse it in the post, let me know. I can update the post or offer some thoughts on why I think that analogy makes sense there.

      “Young” is all relative. I’ve led teams at Google, started and successfully sold a company, and advise several companies. But, then again, I haven’t started a billion dollar company and am not looking back on a 50 year career. So take it for what you will. 🙂

    3. Sadly, very few people in Silicon Valley actually appreciate professional spectator sports. When I meet a fellow sports enthusiast, we usually end up speaking for an hour or two simply because we so rarely get a chance to meet other sports fans.

      On that note, there has been a great deal of work done on measuring the true value of NBA players; refer to the excellent Wages of Wins book and blog for more details on this analysis (

      The average NBA player contributes 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (0.100 wins x 5 players = 0.5 wins, which is average, by definition).

      In 2011, the most productive players were Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, each of whom produced approximately 0.300 wins per 48 minutes.

      Because only five players can be on the floor at any given time, this means that the most productive players are vastly more useful to a team, and that NBA superstars tend to be *underpaid* because of the NBA’s maximum salary rules.

      1. Chris,

        That’s really cool information. I’m going to subscribe to I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for reading and thanks especially for the link.


  8. Always interesting to see the exercising of what might (without any disparagement intended) be called commonsense. Old enough to feel that this was how we used to do it, didn’t we, but without quite so much angst? Really enjoyed this (after re-reading some of the convolutions). Many thanks for post.

  9. Unfortunately in a ‘real life’ people are more often a mix of at least 2/3 personalities (sometimes even contradictory ones) than one you can easily categorize as a Heart or an Energizer Bunny. Also, it’s not enough to label people and put them on a graph, to make it all work. You can take 3, supposedly well-match people and they would still not get on well in the team. I believe in skills in the first place and the team work in the second. The rest lies upon managers, who should define suitable roles for everyone in the team.

  10. You got me reading by exceptional writing since I am not all interested in the topic. I was so happy to see that you used the pronoun SHE when talking of the the ten engineer types. i would say that this as well builds the best team since you are not stuck in gender types of assuming that the best person is always a HE.
    I enjoyed the read from a gender perspective and wish you the best of luck and perfect love!

  11. You bring up some very helpful points about team building and acquisition. I am currently in the nascent process of building a team for a publishing endeavor and you have given me some very helpful advice here. Thanks!

  12. The Beatles came from blue collar background. “Street Fighters” . . They had to pay serious dues and starve for a few years. Obviously they endured and passed the test. Ultimately there is no substitute for nose to the grindstone work.

  13. Most hiring processes assume that if you find a great developer and put them on a great team, the individual and team will do well. Good teams try to nail down “culture fit” but this is usually only based on whether the candidate gets along with the team.

  14. Interesting — combination little engine/teacher here. I can learn ANYTHING, distill it done, and present it in a way that enables the next person in line to understand it ten times faster, or that enables the problem to be solved quickly. Unsurprisingly, I do marketing and communications for a frighteningly technical company. And I tend to latch onto problems and masticate them until I get them.

    I might add one more though, and not just because I’m in a technical field: the Geek. Maybe this person needs another name. This is the person who you sit behind a desk, walk off, don’t make eye contact … and they just get things done. You may not even remember what their voice sounds like, but they can sit, stare into space, and give you the right answer. They often don’t do well in interviews because they are quiet as anything, but looking at their publication history — and especially their citation history — reveals a real keeper.

  15. There’s also another: the Space Cadet. This one will see connections between the current problem du jour and some weird thing that got done six months ago … and those connections will reveal an approach that will solve the problem. Another one that might not do well on an interview, mostly because they probably forgot to zip their pants.

  16. You can’t create a 10x team without a great leader.

    During Civil War, Lincoln didn’t get it right till he made US. Grant the General.

    One of the greatest hire of all time was when FDR picked Dwight Eisenhower to be the Supreme Allied Commander.

    General Leslie Groves led a team of 10xers in building the atom bomb (Manhattan Project).

    !0x teams don’t just happen, there needs to be a leader who can build this team and make them work to 10x performance. This is the most important person on any team.

  17. Enjoyed this post a lot – certainly made me think about my own team (in finance). I remember a college roommate once saying, ‘don’t you think there’s something wrong with everybody?’ Profound, even perhaps the answer to ‘why are we here?’ To wit, perhaps you should add a Humanist element to the team, the person who understands we are all flawed.

    Basically, when you say building a team of Stanford people have shared values and ethics – sounds a bit more like a Stanford team that arrogantly believes their privileged status in life translates to superior genes, values and connotes superior breeding. I’d just be a little careful with that.

    1. Thanks much for taking the time to read and post. Hopefully everyone recognizes that we’re all flawed 🙂

      I don’t believe I mention anything about values or ethics related to Stanford. The only place where I mention it is in relation to communication and shared (technical) culture such as speaking the same jargon and knowing the same technologies.

      1. I really enjoyed this article too, but want to follow up on this point, because I’m a Human-Centred Design nerd, and that whole discipline is about searching for all your undiscovered flaws as a designer/developer all the time by listening to other people who are totally not like you.

        Okay, say a bunch of Stanford grads will be able to think the same way while working on a development project. Fine. But what does that mean for their end users, who (statistically) aren’t likely to be only Stanford grads and may have completely different life experience and user needs, that the team’s product will be incompatible with? There’s a lot you can do with usability testing once you’ve built your prototypes, but you need somebody like yogi_3333’s ‘Humanist’ character to just challenge why development directions are being taken in the first place. Quick consensus can lead to quick development, but by ignoring other perspectives, that quick development might be along a path that’s not the best choice for the end users’ needs.

        It sounds like you’re working with a gender and ethnically diverse team, which is great–but a Stanford-only bias undercuts a bit of that, *especially* where it is one of knowing the same jargon and technical culture, and I’d question why one kind of diversity is something you are proud of having on your team while another kind of diversity is actively screened out. Your end users won’t share that culture, so why not incorporate a few more perspectives, or at least not screen against them? By definition, a ‘Teacher’ type from another educational background could surely pick up the working culture fairly quickly and critique it where appropriate to the project? A team of ‘No-pinocchios’ from different backgrounds calling out each other on things might not be so bad.

  18. Hi. Great post. Is this inspired by some known method for which there is more research and material on how to evaluate a person using these or similar dimensions? Thanks.

      1. I thought so, would be great with a follow up on how your team evaluates each other and how you evaluate candidates. Cheers.

  19. The recruiter likes this!!! Its about the people not the placements, fantastic to see like minded thoughts. People make a business, they can also break a business and you need to constantly evaluate to make sure the team remains ‘right’. x

  20. ~amused~ I bet I’m the only one commenting that comes from a team of (more than) 7 all-female software engineers! I have to admit that the Energizer Bunny and the Little Engine that could merged in my mind even on the third reading, as did the Lead Engineer and the Teacher… but maybe that’s just because of the way my particular team is structured.

  21. Very nice information, I will need this information soon, as I have started a developer collective with some people in the university I attend, and I could make good use of it. Thank you for it.

  22. Hi, great blog article, this is the culture that we have at our business. I believe that Jim Collins hit the nail on the head when he said in his book, Good to Great “it is getting the right people on your bus and the wrong people off your bus and then getting the right people in the correct seats that make a company go from good to great” Thank you for the great information your provided, I will be passing it on.

  23. Good information. “superstar is the team, not the individual” true, but also it is important to send the message that every member in the team is a “star” in some or the other field.

  24. I like the way, even though I didn’t write that exactly, you understood I was implying “over-use”. That is indeed perceptive. I still think they’re a bad idea, because with sports, the opponent is always a finite group. Even with the best analytics available, you still need more flexibility than a “put the ball in the hole” approach. Therefore, in my opinion, sports analogies should be avoided.
    In reference to Willis, I’m afraid you are wrong. Many people do not like sports, nor do they get, or even bother to try and understand sporting anecdotes, so they are not truly ubiqitous.

  25. I just went to a team building course for about 2 days and they didn’t discuss about these things. Without the graphs and mathematical thingy. All is about sharing and security and profits and how to work efficiently.

    Well, I guess our company were ripped off!

  26. Great post.. I am the “sorts of people make other people better bullet point.” I work for a small accounting firm and after reading your post, was able to identify each person I work with (besides myself).

    I guess we really are a 10x office! (although right now I am giving 1x) 😉

  27. Nice trick to use the Beatles to get people to read your article, maybe I’ll try that. Nonetheless an interesting article, I had no idea there was such drama in engineering.

  28. I don’t have the foggiest idea what a 10x team or programmer is, but I do run a very small party rental and design firm in South Dakota and I found this fascinating and insightful. I believe team dynamics is vital to the success of small business. You articulated so many things I value in my operation but couldn’t put my finger on. I loved your personality breakdowns. I currently only have a heart and a huster ( i’m probably the little engine that could – except around here it’s called bull headed) but even as I read it – it made me smile and think. Bravo.

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I appreciate you taking the time to read it and am glad you found the personality breakdowns useful. Best of luck with your business!

  29. Preface: This is a response to the article that spawned a conversation in the Utah Ruby User Group. Context is towards Rails developers.

    I found this article very interesting. I actually think that with the
    Rails developer pool, it’s hard to find a developer that isn’t a 10x
    developer.. so the question really is, how many developers does it
    take to screw in the light bulb.

    I personally come from a one-man-show developer background so I
    gravitate towards working alone. This is how I am a 10x programmer.
    When I work with teams, it seems to take the air out of my tires, so
    to speak, because I feel slowed down. There are other programmers like
    this that I know, and other programmers who are opposite.

    It was interesting to see the types of programmers they list. I think
    that the real challenge for a company is to find the needs of the
    company (smaller firms might need less programmers who are more
    independent) and larger companies may need the varied types to groom
    programmers and retain some sort of failover. Either way, it really
    falls into the company’s responsibility to determine the needs.

    We are all 10x programmers in my book. That’s what Rails provides (and
    Grails, btw)

  30. Actually, the music industry has sort-of lost the ability. They instead play a very grim sort of poker with lots of could-bes and a couple gems. Starting with getting you to sign away your right to sign with anyone else away before they’ll even discuss possible options. In theory what you describe is what they should be doing. In practice, they’re going for the quick buck with the one hit wonder, then move on to the next. The music quality and moreover the staying power of the resulting bands is suffering, and it’s getting increasingly noticeable. Not (just) because I’m busily turning into an old fart; my industry contacts including talent scouts say so(, too).

  31. Diversity of Personalities diagram was jus amazing. I loved it. The title of the post says it all.
    Teams must quickly acknowledge that a problem exists then work to determine what will take the place of the problem, how the solution will function and work. Teams that can quickly create ‘what they want’ as opposed to ‘what they don’t want’ get work done and implement this process into the team

  32. Wow, I didn’t know I was a 10x team leader until I was sent this blog a few days ago. This resonates very well with me. My development team has grown from 5 to 50+ over the past five years and is recognized for productivity and talent. I’ve always felt that team is more important than individuals, the trick is building the right mix. In my business I don’t always have the luxury of picking my players and when I do it’s usually from a pretty small pool of qualified candidates. For me it’s always been about understanding which 10x characteristics(without knowing it) an individual has and getting them into the right role on the team. As we have reorganized into 7 Scrum teams, getting the right mix across the teams is an ongoing challenge. This blog has given me new ways to look at the problem. My team leaders and I have started a discussion around this to see if we can set up the right cross team connections to get 10x synergies across the teams as opposed to in the teams (is 10x scalable?). We already have our “Energizer Bunny” outside Scrum supporting across teams to great effect. Another consideration is the difficulty in managing true 10x talent. A leader needs to recognize that each 10x roleplayer usually has personality traits that can make them “high maintenance” from a management perspective. I’ve always found the extra time needed to understand my team as individuals so I can give them the unique support and reinforcement each one of them needs has been well worth it in terms of productivity and client satisfaction with our work.

    1. Thanks for reading my post. Sounds like your whole organization is really focused on building efficient teams, so I’m very flattered that you found the post useful. The difficulty in managing 10x employees is a great point too. This is all more art than science, as you say.

  33. Wow, this is a very interesting post. As someone who has been recruiting software talent for start-ups for many years, I see my more forward-thinking clients giving much more thought to team dynamics now than they did 10 years ago. They all still want superstars too, but even a superstar needs to fit into a team. Well done.

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  35. “We looked for people who were technically solid but especially good at making other people around them better.”
    Your this sentence reminded me of a developer in my company, who never shared his knowledge with his co-worker or juniors. Such egoistic and selfish people, neither succeed in life as an individual, nor makes his Team successful.
    It was worth reading your post and shall definitely recommend it to the developers in my company to have such a great read.

  36. Great post! I’m 4 years late though 😦

    I see some fundamental differences between Avichal’s roles and Belbin’s roles.

    Avichal included roles that drive energy and emotions in a team (respectively Energy bunny and Heart). I know how important those kind of roles are important as I’ve seen teams near from collapsing, only saved by people who cared about the team atmosphere.

    In Belbin’s roles, I only see roles about efficiency. No representative for the team energy or emotion. Also, I went on Belbin’s website and the “Shaper” role is represented by a whip (WTF?)… My feeling is that Belbin’s roles are a representation of the team roles for a manager in a big company (outside-in), not the team roles for a startup (inside-out).

    Thanks Avichal ! I’m curious how you think about your post now, 4 years older.

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