Cult Of Personality

(CategoryAntiPattern: This may be an AntiPattern in some instances)

Problem: A team needs direction.

Context: A tight schedule, uncertainty of design, uneven distribution of skills among developers, and new technologies put a project into jeopardy. Perhaps drastic action applied to a ScapeGoat has already occurred. There may even be a PeaceMaker in place, or even a DoorMat.

Forces: Contraindications: Solution: Bring in a legendary figure among the developers, or at least revered by management, to take over the lead.

Resulting Context: Guru-like figures who can inspire awe or at least intimidate team members can redirect a failing team through sheer force of personality. When the Guru's name is spoken in hushed tones, or is used as a seal of verification ("Well, Archibald says that...") then the goal has been reached and the team is now manageable. Those team members who are not awestruck may need removal or reeducation if the charisma of the Guru is insufficient. Such heretics can be unsettling elements in a reformed team.

Rationale: At times there is no remedy in the face of disaster other than to throw a compelling personality into the mix.

Author: DonOlson 95/09/14

Another aspect in the Resulting Context is that the introduction of a guru/hero raises expectations of both management and team that may be unrealistic. Along with this pattern the guru/hero must practice ManagingExpectations if they are going to operate in an environment where the organisation understand facts rather than desires or wishes. In addition your hero/guru probably wants to be fixing (or making visible) the underlying problem that resulted in the dysfunctional team - otherwise the organisation is not learning and an organisation that is not learning will become a failing organisation in due course.


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