Choosing between people and technology skills

Great people can compensate for poor technology, but great technology can’t fix poor people. Great people can work round, improve and replace poor technology. Great technology just sits there being great, and doesn’t help the people improve their skills.

Of course, it’s not true to say there’s a strict choice between people and technology. But in any organisation we develop a culture and a way of working (deliberately or not), and along the way we make choices about how those evolve. These are choices about what skills we hire for, who we hire, what we reward, what behaviours we encourage or ignore, and so no. The choices we make there are the ones that determine what kind of organisation we become and what the people/technology mix looks like.

This will always vary from organisation to organistion. One factor is size—for a one- or two-person startup “technology over people” might be fine (and it might even be manageable to have the fabled “brilliant jerk”), mainly because there aren’t many other people for them to interact with (and it’s probably their company, too).

But as the organisation grows the people skills and the organisational-management skills become more important, if only because there are more people and more of an organisation to deal with. These skills include not just personal interaction, but also working across teams, responding to high level initiatives, balancing conflicting priorities, and so on. If those things don’t get handled well progress is difficult.

So, whenever we are anything but very small it’s our people-related skills which will be the biggest contributor to our success, and those are what we need to develop most of all.

Photo by DS Pollack