At GSoft, intelligence is a group thing

intelligence is a group thing

Mathieu Hétu, ShareGate Manager at GSoft, and his ideas about placing people at the heart of companies.

“In real life, decisions are made organically. Why should that be any different at work? Why should we need someone to tell us what to do, just because we're in an office setting?”

In the digital era, what do you think the future of work will look like?

Mathieu Hétu: “At GSoft, we like to think that work is human. And by doing away with dull, menial tasks, we feel that technology will give humans the space to express their creativity, visions, etc. So, really, the challenge is to work with technology in such a way that our strengths as humans will clearly set us apart from machines...”

Is that why GSoft has decided to shift its focus to the human?

M.H.: “Absolutely. When I first started working here, the company was juggling all sorts of issues: lack of energy, motivation, efficiency; there was tension. I took the time to really get to know my co-workers and the company overall. And I proposed changes within my team, one of which was a bit out there: I got rid of the team lead role.”

Why?

M.H.: “I don't like the idea of people necessarily having to report to a boss. We're all grown-ups here. Everyone has a life outside of work, kids, a mortgage, car payments, whatever the case may be... We're all very independent when it comes to our personal lives. You wouldn't think of appointing a trip lead when planning a getaway with friends, would you? There's no one telling you where to stay, what to do...

In real life, decisions are made organically. Why should that be any different at work? Why should we need someone to tell us what to do, just because we're in an office setting?”

So your teams are now boss-free. How does that play out exactly?

M.H.: “Regardless of the fact we no longer have team leads, leadership is still important. We got rid of the team lead and now have a leaderful team; the point being to make leadership a shared experience.

We first brought in folks to coach the teams. But the coaches aren't responsible for carrying the weight of the teams; they observe from the outside, brainstorm with the teams, answer questions and provide guidance.

That said, in an industry like ours, there are always going to be decisions to make. Leadership is required for all sorts of issues, from cyber security to considerations about user interface. We've observed that within teams, people will always have a natural penchant for certain topics. So we built multidisciplinary communities made up of members from the different teams. These folks come together to discuss specific issues. We're at a point now where these communities have decision-making powers: they get to decide how the company is run, or which technologies will be used.

Thanks to this strategy — bringing in coaches and stimulating these communities — we've been able to redefine the notion of leadership within teams.”

As a manager, what's your biggest mission?

M.H.: “For me, it's all about developing group intelligence. I'd like to put in place practices that allow this form of intelligence to really shine through.”

How do you accomplish that?

M.H.: “There are several ways. For example, we changed the way we assembled teams. Before, the managers would choose who they wanted to work with on a specific task. But really, who are we to decide who's best for the team? So we moved towards a model that allows folks to assemble their own teams based on the particular mission, and each person's interests and skills.

In this model, the manager is happy simply defining the parameters of their mission. The rest is up to the humans we trust dearly...

We tested the idea, then we asked folks whether they wanted to stay the course or go back to the more traditional model (where the manager assembles the teams). The results: 93% preferred the new model. I'd say it's been a hit.”

What are some of the returns on these initiatives?

M.H.: “The returns aren't always easy to measure, but one thing's for certain: our teams are a lot less cynical now. Which is huge for me. As a rule, people become cynical when they lose hope that things can change.

I'm also convinced that if companies today took concrete steps to combat cynicism, it would have a hugely positive impact not only on the companies in question, but also on society as a whole!”

Mathieu Hétu

Mathieu Hétu

I have a background in software development and extensive experience working on management applications. I quickly discovered other approaches to development, particularly while working in Asia for three years. Over time, I progressed from Scrum coach to team lead to department manager, occasionally being asked to speak at conferences along the way. I am continually inspired by the people around me and particularly by Jurgen Appelo, the man behind the Management 3.0 movement.

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