Posts Tagged ‘African Wild Dogs’

Applying Concepts of “Packs” to Software Development Teams

October 4, 2008

In one of my post couple of months back, I had written about my fascination about the African Wild Dogs. In the same post, I had written that some of their amazing habits as a pack can be translated into some real practices in our real life especially in Software Project Management. This post is about the same.

On the on-set, let me say that many of you may find my correlation between these dogs and software teams a bit far-fetched or even crazy. Some of you may even feel this post a slightly condescending on my part to compare software teams aka. people and dogs. But please hear me out!

As I had pointed in my post linked above, the whole notion of these animals surviving and succeeding in the extreme wild as a pack is something which got me thinking of what can we learn from them to build effective teams. My experience has been in building software teams so I will limit my conversation in this blog to Software Engineering Teams. However, I am guessing that my thoughts here could apply to building any type of team/s.

Pack animals by nature live in bunches and their survival depends on how they live as a group and interact amongst each other.  Same as these African Wild Dogs, Human Beings are also Pack Animals. In a social sense we are all designed to live as Packs. We need others to interact with and also depend upon. However, IMO, there are many additional things which these animals do much better than us as a pack. Some of these additional things – or let me call it as characteristics – is something I think can be impersonated by us too especially when it comes to building a rock-solid successful Software Development Teams. Here are some of those characteristics –

  • Moving together and hunting together = Certainly Software Teams are not literally hunting anything; however this point does apply to the key point that the team should get on a key new mission collectively rather than individually. A team which is well-gelled together can collectively approach a new mission in a much successful manner.
  • Individuals while they operate in a pack, maintain unique role for themselves, but can play different roles if required = It is important that in a team, each member should have an unique ability individually and have their individual quirks, traits and characteristics that make up their personality. However, the members of the team should also be able to quarterback the other roles if required. Each team member should have the ability to play to other’s strength and complement wherever required for other’s weaknesses.
  • Pack Subordination = This can be slightly tricky if taken literally – because it can imply a hierarchy or weaknesses in the team. I don’t mean this in this manner. By subordination, I mean the team exhibits mutual respect and affection for each other and not fear.
  • Inherent desire to keep harmony in the group = The above point and this is inter-related. This tends to be the sub-conscious behavior of a ‘well-packed‘ team. The team thrives best on companionship.
  • Get driven by Learnings and not just Instincts = As I had mentioned in my previous blog, one of the key characteristics of these African Dogs as compared to other animals was that they typically are not instinctive hunters. It is my opinion that individuals get driven by instincts, but a team needs to get driven by Experience.
  • Cursorial hunting ability  = The team should have a long distance running ability to achieve their goal.
  • Holistic View rather than Individualistic View = The strength and progress personified more by the team rather than individuals.

If it helps in recognizing the value of having pack characteristics in a team – get this! Pack animals have the biggest success rate in their hunts as compared to other animals. We have successfully incorporated imbibed some of these characteristics in our teams (we call them as Velocity Packs) and now has become a key part of our offering in Version 1.0 in GlobalLogic.

Thoughts and comments are most welcome!

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Fascinating African Wild Dogs

June 1, 2008

African Wild Dog at Bronx Zoo.Image via WikipediaAlthough I have never seen them in the wild and I have never touched the African continent as yet, I have always been fascinated by the African Wild Dogs (biological name: Lycaon pictus) (wikipedia link) whenever I have heard or read about them. Although they may not give the most soothing view to the eyes, may not be majestic, and have plenty of ill-founded myths going against them, there are many amazing things about them. IMO, some of them can be translated into some real practices in our real life especially in Software Project Management. But more about that in some future posts.

Follow the link to the wikipedia to read more about these African dogs. Quite different from many of their other cousins – these dogs live in packs in wilderness, are hunters by nature, and come very close to modern dogs. All types of wolves also fall in this category. Also, with whatever I have read about Australian Dingos, they also come close to the African dogs. However there are certain characteristics that are still unique to the African Dogs.

Some of the things which are certainly fascinating about these African dogs –

  • Ability of each of the dog to live and survive in a pack while maintaining a unique role for themselves.
  • Understanding the roles and strengths/limitations of others in the pack. These animals play to other’s strengths and complement wherever required for other’s weaknesses. For example, their ability to regurgitate to feed other pack members such as the sick, injured or very old is certainly unique.
  • They do not seem to be instinctive hunters as many other wild animals. They have evolved their hunting tactics with learnings over the years.
  • They have the highest success rate in their hunt missions probably because of the attribute mentioned in the above bullet point. More than 75-80% of their hunts translate into successful kills. Compare that with the big cats like lions whose success rate is less than 50%.
  • Cursorial hunting ability – ability to run long distance to get their hunt.
  • Recursive divide and capture style of hunting – ability to continuously break and capture their target hunt to maximize their success rate in their hunt.

Take some time to read more about this beautiful animal by googling around on the internet. It is sad that this intelligent specie is on an endangered list now. By the latest what I have read, less than 5000 of them are remaining. With a mortality rate of more than 50% and life expectancy of around 10 years only, that surviving count is not that much.

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