John found a fantastic essay that questions the importance of teamworking skills. Personally – and this might be the wrong thing to say considering I’m currently looking for work – I hate working in teams. It all goes back to being the smart kid in elementary school. I’d get stuck with all the anti-social losers that the teacher felt would benefit from my leadership. Instead I ended up doing all the work myself just so we wouldn’t fail. Eventually I discovered that I just work better alone. Even when I played sports, I played singles tennis, where my success or failure was entirely up to me. It’s just easier to get things done when you’re the only person responsible for it.
That said, I have of course had to work on teams in my career and the experiences were not all bad. The best cases were when everyone had a clearly defined role. I’d rather be the only HTMLer and have to do twice as much work than have to pair up with somebody else and go through the business of deciding who does what, what format to do it in, correcting their mistakes, etc. To me, specialization is the key to a good team. The only problem is that most I.T. companies fall into the mistakes mentioned in this article. They use “teamwork skills” as a convenient way to pressure people into working 60-hour weeks. If a project (or team) was getting behind, the solution was always to throw more people at it, rather than look at the ways the structure was already messed up. Most “successful” team projects only happened because two or three individuals pulled an all-nighter fixing what everyone else had screwed up.
Snookums and I have been debating this type of thing for awhile now. We lived with a Project Manager who felt that it was the duty of the better team members to handhold the others through the project. Our argument was always that companies may want this, but they never budget for the extra time. When a project is high priority on a tight deadline, mentoring goes out the window. And when it comes right down to it, I trust myself in those situations better than I trust anybody else.