As a software company grows, the original employees only had a small scope of features to develop and they could understand the whole system – it was easy to “grasp”.  Yet as developers are added and functional coverage grows in all three dimensions, it becomes harder for new employees to have an overview and they have to start specialising. The original employees however, may start to become, when not carefully managed, so-called “prima-donna’s”. They will dominate.

From a day-to-day perspective, either consciously or subconsciously prima-donna’s know best, they are indispensable and are key to the company. They can hold considerable weight in discussions and opinion as few choose to challenge them directly.  This prevents others from taking responsibility for things they could easily do, creates a dependency on one person that is a risk to the project or even entire company.

Occasionally entire groups of people can become isolated from core teams, usually testing teams or support teams. In this case it is the core team that has become a prima-donna in its own right, creating a class hierarchy in the business.

Ultimately, if prima-donna’s are not managed, teamwork will be difficult, great talent will slowly give up and may leave and thus the growth of the company is slowed as initiatives have to be restarted, potentially again and again.

A prima-donna free environment will make great teamwork easier to achieve and commitments easier to make as people will not be so reliant on those “key” resources.  Resourcing bottlenecks will not occur either.

How Can Agile Help?

Agile methodologies help reduce the impact of prima-donna’s by:

  1. Making the team take responsibility and accountability for delivery without prima-donna’s doing all the work.
  2. Creating teams that are cross functional, limiting ‘outsiders’.
  3. Requiring the team to hold frequent, open assessments of work done and improvements to be made.
  4. After each delivery (collection of timeboxes / sprints) the teams may be re-arranged to aid know-how transfer.
Do you See or Feel this in your work?

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