The thing with salads is, that they never really turn out exactly the same as the last time you made it with the same ingredients. Which brings me to project teams and the exciting proposition that together all the members can create something brand new, each time. But some salads turn out better than others, as do project teams. Here’s a quick list of what to look out for.
There is absolutely no leeway around this one. Individual ingredients that make a salad must each pull their weight and stand their own. Freshness and flavour are paramount, regardless of their proportionate quantity in the overall mix. A single weak link can pull down tremendous collective energy to average, if not insipid. While selection is key, so is prepping the ingredients just before you throw them in together. A sprinkling of roasted walnuts, (as opposed to non-roasted) can elevate a big bowl of greens into a delightful symphony. In the case of individual team members, prepping is a fine-tuned, customised introduction to a project (and team), with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
Varying Textures & Good Balance.
If its consistency and uniformity that you are looking for on a plate, I would strongly suggest mashed potatoes instead. The joy of a salad comes from the surprising diversity in every mouthful—the crunch & the silken together, the sweet & the tart together. Variation in texture, character & skill, makes for interesting bedfellows. Design projects require layering and richness of experience—unidimensional can be a tad bit boring. Discovery & richness need to be programmed into projects, via teams from the word go. In parallel, balance is also critical—not in the sense of equalising all effort and responsibility—but orchestrating proportionate distribution so that each individual bit complements the other and does not competes for attention.
Tossing it together.
Gentle but thorough, is the ground rule with the last leg of salad making—tossing it together. Sure you picked the best ingredients and planned their proportionate distribution, but the last mile is about how you bring them together. Dressing (or internal orientation/briefing in the case of project teams) can hold together diverse elements with just the right degree of cohesion. Overdone, over-dressed—and it could probably turn the whole bowl into a soggy mess and dissolve all the wonderful individual energies you put together in the first place.
This post is part of the Analogic series, looking at design practice with real world/life metaphors. Read the first post here.