If a baseball team doesn’t have anyone in left field, they will consistently lose. Sure, they may handle long balls to center exceptionally, they may pitch great games, handle everything in the infield just fine. But if no one is covering left field, those fly balls will go unfielded, runs will be given up, and games lost.
The same applies to technology teams, but holes in coverage there aren't always as easy to spot. As technologists we have to map an invisible world that needs to be covered. It’s not always obvious, until it’s too late, that we’ve been neglecting an entire part of the field. All we know is that we’ve been losing, and scratching our heads wondering why someone else didn’t scoop up that play.
Many times people misinterpret a coverage problem as a problem with a specific person — a bad apple — when more likely expectations were set too broadly (you cover the outfield!) for any one person to be able to cover.
This might sound as simple as getting the right number of people to handle a load, but more often it’s about realistically figuring out the distinct skillsets required to cover the necessary ground, and making sure those skillsets are represented on your team. The skills represented on a healthy technology team will be extremely varied, and no one will have them all.
This is true for internal staff as well as external support. It's common to hear organizations complaining about their implementation firms, but on further inspection it often appears the firm delivered what was asked for, but delivered it to no one. The staff wasn’t set up to take it from there. The firm threw the ball back to first, and no one was there to catch it.
With proper coverage, we find ourselves surprised how many balls get fielded. But getting there requires paying close attention to where the balls are actually being hit. That takes real time and focus. If repeated training is needed to ensure successful adoption of a system, you have to get that covered. If data needs to be carefully monitored and cleaned in order to remain trustworthy, get someone on it. If a leader is needed (and one always is) to make strategic technology decisions, create and manage a roadmap, communicate with fellow executives, and advocate for budgets, how can we expect the product to be successful without a skilled individual playing that role?
With proper coverage, we also may be surprised how many people reveal themselves to be smart, conscientious, and hard working. A blaming culture can be replaced with an all-hands-on-deck, problem-solving culture. Instead of everyone’s priority being avoiding responsibility for the debacle, people can focus on the never-ending cycle of continuous improvement, in service of ultimately increasing the entire team's effectiveness, satisfaction, and impact.