Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The "A" Team

I have a client who addresses every important email he sends my team to the ‘A-Team.’  

“A-Team:,” he wrote us last week to request our help.   “The subject…addresses a very large problem.  I will support your effort as this mission-critical capability is vitally important.”

My client is of course referencing the American television show from the 1980’s (and later, the 2010 movie) chronicling the explosive adventures of an ex special operations military team that solves crime after crime with their unmatched cunning and operational skill. Now, there are a lot of things about the A-Team franchise that should not be romanticized, the most obvious of which is its unapologetic reliance on sexist and racist stereotypes.  For example - Google ‘A-Team’ in America and at least 90% of the pictures that will pop onto your screen feature the team’s only black member shirtless and wearing an impressive amount of gold jewelry adorned with wild-looking colorful feathers.   Meet the inimitable Mr. T as Sergeant First Class “Bad Attitude” Baracas, who is the team’s mechanic and muscle.  The character – and his wardrobe choices – have not aged well. 

With that said - this particular client is a U.S. Army Veteran who was a young man when these shows were popular, and he is clearly using the ‘A-Team’ moniker as a huge compliment.  The A-Team was the best at what they did.  There was no case they couldn’t crack.  No bad guy they couldn’t bring down.   No obstacle they could not overcome.  No mission left unfinished.   The IBMers I work with on a daily basis are that team for my client.   We are his best, maybe his brightest – and almost certainly his hardest working support team.  If he needs something done, we will help him get it done well.  Period.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a member of so many outstanding teams of professionals at IBM.  One in particular that stands out in my mind is a team of about 10 IBM business consultants with whom I was sent to Afghanistan and to create a business incubation and investment platform for small and medium enterprises.  This group of relatively young IBMers stepped into a completely new environment and worked incredible hours to stand this organization up.  We had some finance and management types, some supply chain experts, some marketing/social media gurus, and some hyper-organized operations specialists.  We learned an incredible amount from each other and we learned as a group from the clients we were working with in a foreign landscape.  We also had one person become stir-crazy from being stuck too long in a square compound with the same small group of people.  He developed an alarming affinity for a red glass goblet he named "goblito" - but we sent him home shortly thereafter and we don’t talk about him too much (don’t worry…I’m mostly joking).

One of the things that made this team – and the “A-Team” so effective was that all of the members were unique and uniquely talented.  Each with their own skills but all in sync to achieve the same goal, they contributed something important and irreplaceable to the mission. 

The CSC team of 12 IBMers I’m about to head to Morocco with promises to be one of the most talented and diverse teams I’ve ever been part of, partially for this reason.    IBM looks for top contributors from all over the world in all job categories and at all stages in their career.  I’ve only gotten to know them a little bit and already I can’t wait to work more with them.   Take a look at this awesome collage my future teammate Kavya made from our profile pictures: . 

Kavya is actually not just a member of the CSC Morocco 6 team – she and I are on the same sub-team, supporting the same Moroccan client.  I got a chance to talk to her and our other sub-team member, Juani on the phone yesterday (here is Juani’s very funny blog:  We were all so excited to share our ideas that we couldn’t help from all talking at once – but in the end, we emerged with solid next steps and ideas to take with us on the trip.  It was just the thing to make me want to get on a plane tomorrow.

As good as most of my IBM teams have been, this CSC group are the IBM “A” list team in all the best senses of the phrase – diverse in skills and experience, dedicated to the mission, incredibly capable of getting things done.  The realm of things I stand to learn from this group of incredible individuals is astounding…and I am so proud to be part of this #ibmcsc morocco6 “A-Team”.

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