I do a bit of online casual gaming. Lots of car and racing games mostly, but lately I’ve been playing this thing called Battalion Commander. The basic concept is that you gather a team of soldiers as you run along and try to survive. Each type of soldier you gather has a different skill.
A subplot to this game is that you’re given a series of missions to fulfill if you so choose. Gotta keep you playing somehow, right?
As I was working on fulfilling one of these missions, it made me realized that it directly parallels something I’ve learned leading people throughout my career.
Each of the team members you gather in the game is good at their assigned role – they do exactly what you’d expect them to do. But here’s the rub – if you don’t have the right members on the team, it doesn’t matter how good they are at what they do. And until you know your objective, not only can you not figure out who those people are, you also can’t figure out what they should be doing. You need to figure out the objectives, then figure out the functions you need to achieve those objectives, and then finally figure out the best people to perform those functions.
Gino Wickman, in the book Traction, the seminal work in the Entrepreneurial Operating System series, calls this having “the right people in the right seats.” When designing your organization, you first figure out what functions are required. Assume the objective is running your business. So what functions do you need? Probably some variations on finance, sales, marketing, human resources, operations, and information technology, and an overall functional leader.
Once you figure out the functions and what they’ll do to achieve your objective, then you put people in the seats. Of course, you want people who will be good at those assigned roles – who will perform in the way you expect them to in order to achieve the objective. But without defining the objective and the functions needed to achieve that objective, you can have the most talented people on earth, and still fail miserably.