There is a very lively discussion going on at the Harvard Business Review site about the importance of high performer for the success of companies and projects. In short Bill Taylor, the cofounder of Fast Company and author of several books argues that currently especially in the tech area great people are overrated. He criticizes the statement that a great developer is 100 times more productive than an average on. His arguments have received heavy criticism following the initial posting.
But what is in for the SAP community? Are single superstars decisive for the success of your SAP implementation or is team of pretty good people the better choice so that you do not need to spend a lot of time as a customer to find the exceptional one and only developer/ architect/ functional expert for your implementation?
During my career and my projects I was lucky to work with many people I admire in the SAP community coming from customers, partners and also SAP. Although it is difficult to decide what was the reason for the success of the projects I realized that no single answer fits to all the projects which will do them justice.
Therefore I think that we can divide the projects in two groups: standard implementations and projects with larger development proportions.
In short I would always prefer a well rounded team with pretty good people to one Superstar trying to cover all the aspects of a standard implementation project. If I take the example of a SAP HR project than we will need a group of pretty good experts for all the single pieces: HR administration, payroll, organizational management et.al. There is a lot of work to do and the precondition is that all these SAP experts have a good level of knowledge. Do not get me wrong: I do not say that these implementations can bear the burden of consultants with insufficient knowledge. I am just favoring the well rounded team above the brilliant superstar in the middle of the implementation with all people concentrating on his work in this case.
The case of a project mainly driven by the needs to develop new solutions for processes outside the existing standard processes is different. Here I really appreciated the single outstanding experts who developed the design and the big picture for the solution and the development or who always found a solution for the difficult development questions to help their team mates. In my experiences these outstanding experts were able to guide the way for their team. But again, also here they needed a pretty good team otherwise they will fail with their design.
The analysis of the football club FC Barcelona which Bill Taylor mentioned in his article gives a very good answer to the question which one to prefer. The success of Barca is based upon a great team spirit, a year-long education in their own academy and … exceptional individuals like Lionel Messi. Players like Messi are able to decide a tough match for their team. But they will only be able to do that with a good team around.
But the example of the FC Barcelona clearly demonstrated another management lesson: If there are many exceptional players in one team playing football or implementing SAP it really makes fun to observe their work.