#Throwback tales: How I built efficient work teams

Building highly efficient teams is crucial for the success of any organization, regardless of the industry or department. I have gained valuable insights into creating effective teams in various environments, ranging from development shops to marketing departments.

Drawing upon my experience of coaching teen sports in my spare time, I have identified the potential of using depth charts and network theory as powerful tools in managing and staffing teams. In this article, I will discuss the benefits of these tools and their impact on team performance.

Utilizing Depth Charts for Team Management:

Coaches in various sports rely on depth charts to gain a comprehensive understanding of their players’ strengths and weaknesses. Surprisingly, this valuable tool has been largely overlooked in the context of managing and staffing teams within companies. The beauty of a depth chart lies in its ability to provide insights into each team member’s capabilities and areas for improvement, allowing managers to tailor training programs to address specific weaknesses effectively. While the concept of depth charts may be somewhat controversial in a corporate setting, where integrity and belonging are highly valued, the lack of recognition may stem from a lack of education among HR professionals.

The Importance of Network Theory:

Having observed the value of network dynamics in sports coaching, I believe that viewing the individuals within your organization as a network can greatly enhance team performance. Specialized training often narrows an individual’s perspective and stifles curiosity and innovative thinking. By embracing network theory, managers can tap into the collective strength of their team members and foster an environment where diverse perspectives and ideas can flourish. This approach enables leaders to leverage the connections and relationships within the team to drive success and overcome challenges.

Implementing Depth Charts and Network Theory in Practice:

In one of my previous roles, I successfully utilized the depth chart tool to gain a clear understanding of my team’s capabilities and performance. However, I encountered challenges when attempting to implement similar practices in other departments. During a restructuring phase, I became a change agent and dedicated resource manager for a pool of Project Managers. To streamline resource allocation and project planning, we introduced a project intake process where business managers had to provide detailed plans for required resources. This process facilitated better resource allocation, project status tracking, and decision-making by the leadership team.

The Value of Hiring and Team Composition:

As a hiring manager, I have found that assembling high-performing teams requires a strategic approach. Rather than being fixated on hiring rockstar individuals, I focus on leveraging network theory and building teams from diverse talent pools. This includes hiring candidates who may have been rejected from other pipelines, individuals with average performance in other groups, or even those with outdated skills. I take pride in the accomplishments of teams constructed in this manner, as they often outperform teams composed solely of top-performing individuals. While distinguishing a diamond in the rough from a mediocre candidate can be challenging, relying solely on instinct can introduce bias into the hiring process.

Establishing Baselines and Considering Network Contagions:

Once a baseline level of competency is met, the specific individual hired becomes less significant to the team’s success. However, defining this baseline is crucial and depends on the shape and structure of the network within the team and its connections to other teams within the organization. For example, the successful adoption of a preferred technology by a highly skilled individual hinge on the network’s support and the ability to create wide bridges that connect different groups. Evaluating the probability of adoption, assessing willingness to learn, and understanding network structures help determine the baseline competency required for a successful hire.


To build highly effective teams, it is essential to embrace innovative approaches such as depth charts and network theory. By recognizing the value of individual strengths and weaknesses through depth charts, managers can provide targeted training to enhance highly efficient teams thrive when managers leverage tools like depth charts and network theory. These approaches empower managers to identify individual strengths and weaknesses, tailor training programs, and create an environment that encourages collaboration and innovation.

By adopting a strategic approach to hiring and team composition, organizations can assemble teams that outperform those composed solely of top performers. Embracing these principles can lead to remarkable team achievements and drive overall organizational success in a variety of environments and departments.


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