Here’s my favorite collaboration pattern so far: the Bank Heist collaboration pattern. This pattern, which we know from The A-Team, Ocean’s 11 and Leverage, among others, shares many properties with an excellent developer team:
- You don’t have to like following orders to be on the team.
- Everybody’s a generalist, and an expert in one area (pickpocket, cat burglar, safe-cracker, grifter, etc) but nobody is an expert at everything.
- “Building the team” is part of the fun.
- There is – or should be – mutual respect for complementary skills.
- Everybody on the team needs to do their part and get out of the other people’s way.
- Prima donnas ruin the whole party.
- There’s even a role for management: the Nate Ford/Danny Ocean “mastermind” character is an ideal manager: he can do enough of all the other players’ roles to see how they can all work together and set up the whole job.
I don’t know if identifying this collaboration pattern is actually useful, or if it’s just entertaining, but it is undoubtedly attractive: most people I’ve shared this collaboration pattern with get very excited to work with a team that uses this collaboration pattern. If you or a team you’re on derives some benefit from this pattern, drop me a note.
Heist movies pick up the drama when the team starts to violate these prescriptions: when the grifter decides he’d be a better mastermind than the current leader, for example. This opens up two perspective games I like to play:
- heistify: take your boring office politics (“QA is dawdling because they were convinced the dev will botch it anyway”) and rewrite into a bank heist: “safe-cracker didn’t bother bringing his stethoscope because he figured the second-story man wouldn’t be able to kill the alarms”. Much more fun, isn’t it?
- shyster: make heist movies boring again by inverting the transformation above.