For the past 20 years, I’ve been working with customers on their technology problems, which are ‘people issues’ under the guise of tech. I can understand why that happens as technology is tangible, and what we build has some outcomes. Focusing on tangible tech makes it easy to justify the effort and expense needed to create something successfully. But if you introduce psychometric tests, they can provide results far quicker and cheaper than focusing on technology alone.
Because at the core of these ‘technology issues’, have always been people issues.
Solving Communication Issues in a Global Retailer
A good example is when I was working with a global retailer, and we had to deploy a brand new pause system, but I’d been brought in to help with the assessment of the management team and the delivery of the said system.
It was great fun but quite nerve-wracking at the time if I’m honest. And what I uncovered was a serious communication issue.
All members of the management team were all working far away from home. So they stayed in rented accommodation and ate out together every night.
Their unique scenario meant they made decisions and sent instructions to their team outside of working hours.
The team arrived in the morning with a new set of directions. There was no collaboration, and they felt it was a bit ‘keystone cops’ as they kept moving direction.
In my paper, the recommendation was to bring decision-making closer together between management and the workers; and due to hierarchy, I wasn’t allowed to present this paper. So I sat nervously, awaiting their reaction.
To my surprise, the management responded positively and made some changes to address the situation over time.
And here’s the thing.
I wasn’t initially employed to run this type of exercise, and I certainly wasn’t a trained ‘management consultant’ (but probably was one in the making). Instead, I was a consultant IT infrastructure architect.
I think it helped that we spoke the same language. Also, having tech knowledge and capability allowed the engineers to open up to me, and I could translate what I learnt from them into something palatable for management.
I learnt so much during the process, and I loved the feeling of being able to help the team gel better together.
Eighteen years later, our industry tries to convince investors that every deal is a tech deal.
And that makes sense because technology is at the heart of most companies, whether it’s the driver of revenue, the enabler, or simply a back office system.
Why it’s wrong to tell investors every deal is a tech deal
I think we try to shoehorn this concept of “every deal as a tech deal,” and here are my three reasons I think that’s a problem:
Teaching Investors to Suck Eggs.
Don’t oversell the need for technology due diligence.
Investors are already aware. They don’t need to be told that every business has technology built within it.
They usually understand that tech needs to be assessed when tech is a driver and don’t want that sort of thing rammed down their throats.
There are more critical factors.
The heart of the business is evident in the finances.
Hence, TAM, P&L, forecast and traction are more critical than tech. This statement is true in startups, mid-range, and even large businesses.
But one aspect beats them all: the people that work within the firm. Not just the management team but the workers too. And I haven’t seen a situation where a simple metric indicates team health.
Investors look for opportunities.
Due Diligence is an art that uncovers risks and opportunities within a target business, and recently most diligence providers have been keen to demonstrate how they can help improve the value creation opportunities within target firms.
Yes, firms have many opportunities to improve technology development and spending. Still, suppose we focus investors on the tech, not the people who make it. In that case, they are losing an opportunity to increase the team’s productivity and therefore improve the financial and growth forecast of the firm.
Every deal is a People Deal.
My suggestion is to focus on team productivity. For example, using the Build, Maintain and Optimise model.
When building tech and teams, we need to design it well and think it through. But just like tech, we need DATA on the team members to do a good job.
As a Kolbe psychometric tests consultant, I provide quick assessments of the team members, which helps uncover the following:
- The team member’s natural strengths
- The expectations of their role
- Their manager’s expectations of them
This data, all number-driven, can uncover the following:
- If people are in the right seats.
- If the role people are in suits their natural strengths, and if the employer will get the best value from that person in said seat.
- The differences in opinion between an employee and their manager.
The data allows me to examine how teams operate and identify potential reasons for disharmony or better productivity. Ultimately Kolbe psychometric tests provide a data-driven way to design and build a team within current constraints.
As the world quickly adapts to new technologies, we need more visionaries and business-focused people than engineers.
In tech, we need robust systems that operate securely and provide value. Which in turn only comes from good maintenance or management of the team. Hence, we need further data on how the team operates, identifying conflict and increasing and improving communication.
The stereotype of ‘techies’ being poor communicators is out of date. As citizen development (low / no code) and artificial intelligence build momentum, engineers’ abilities to explain their vision will outweigh their technical powers.
Hence we will have to slowly re-design our tech teams to considerable changes in the industry over the next three years.
We must also ensure that new team members are the right fit for the team because one bad apple can upset the cart.
Optimising the team needs to be aligned with the business challenges and outcomes. We need to understand (a) what skills and strengths are missing in the team and (b) how to address these gaps economically.
For instance, when I worked with a software company that was brilliant at developing but was struggling to sell its services.
During Kolbe psychometric tests, I realised they had ‘cloning’ within the team, even throughout the management and founders.
Therefore all of them were very heavy fact-finders and prone to procrastination. There wasn’t any budget or appetite to hire more people that could address this gap. So we looked at the customer base and, unusually, realised that the firm’s ambassadors (therefore, salespeople) were the buyers within each firm.
They were the ‘quick starts’ who delivered future-focused plans and pushed the teams. Once the firm realised this, they could focus on those customers as ‘cheerleaders’ who were more naturally inclined to promote the firm’s services and could make introductions.
If we treat every deal as a People Deal
I argue it’s more rewarding to focus on people and teams before focusing on tech. By doing so, we can create better working cultures and create something with a better social outcome.
More confident teams can create a better economic outcome.
Note, when using psychometrics to assess your team it this does not mean to be “nice” or ignore issues or use the data to do constructive manipulation.
Everything has to be done for the good of the individuals, the team, and the business itself. But, unfortunately, this often means having to make hard decisions.
Psychometric tests for your tech team
For as long as I can remember, I have interviewed people to help them address their technology issue(s). There’s usually a team element to the solution. As described in this article, most of my early work was based on experience and assessment – which could veer into ‘opinion’.
Now, I use psychometric tests and data to assess teams and this works well with technology teams because there’s some evidence and methodology to back up my findings. The teams can use the data themselves to analyse change, hence the work isn’t a typical ‘HR Consultant’ assessment and I tend to get high buy-in from the teams.
Every deal is a people one.