The ultimate goal of team management is to achieve milestones while maintaining confort and motivation of each team member. Mike Acton has wrote about this some month ago. Today, I’ll talk about different types of authorities that exists between the team members.
Dr Gordon, a psychologist, distinguishes 4 types of authorities :

  • Authority based on expertise and knowledge. An example is the authority a senior developer has on a junior. By definition, this type of authority is restricted to a domain. Even if I am the Lead Director, junior game designers have authority on me about gameplay decision. A good manager should encourage such relationship. It increases the self-esteem of the team. This authority sustains the automatic organisation of a team. Each developer has its own strong points and can become a reference for the rest of the team.
  • Authority based on position ( or job description ). This authority only works if people accepts responsibility is shared and some of their behavior is govern by someone else. Writing good job description avoids hesitation between people, as rules and duty are well established. When hiring a new team member, acceptance of those rules is a condition. Don’t forget those rules also contains company values. So when interviewing candidates, take time to expose all aspects of the job. For example, at Fishing Cactus, every new employee must do a introduction BBQ!
  • Authority based on contracts and agreements. During a Scrum sprint, there always are tasks nobody wants to do. This type of authorities allows the team to share those annoying tasks : “I do this one, but you should do that one”. Trading services is the foundation of our business model, there is no reason it should not be allowed into the team.
  • Authority based on power. It can be expressed as a physical, financial or psychological power. In a company, it nearly always implies money and the fear of loosing his job.

The three first authorities are influence-based, while the last on is a source of control. When you enforce a decision using power, you can create frustration and the victim can feel humiliated. By overruling his decision, you doubt about his knowledge. Abusing of power can lead to destruction of the team spirit. Off course, this only applies to the development part of the job. There is no problem enforcing a time schedule ( that is part of the job decription ).

Dr Gordon wrote this about kids :

“You acquire more influence with young people when you give up using your power to control them…and the more you use your power to try to control people the less influence you’ll have on their lives.”

I really think this applies to anybody. Human doesn’t like to be forced to something he don’t believe in. So, use your experience,¬†negotiate¬†and trade with your team as much as possible. Optimizing the team comfort is optimizing the team productivity. The goal of the manager is to create a positive climate where those relationships can evolve.