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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

The Ultimate Test of Competence


Every now and then we judge people we work with. We go through performance reviews, we recruit and we chat over coffee or beer backbiting our colleagues.

We use different metrics to make our judgment, anything from formal appraisal process to gut feelings, which renders the results incomparable. There is however one method you may use to decide about competence of different people, from junior team members to your managers.

The ultimate test of competence:

Ask yourself whether you’d hire the person to your own dream company to work in the same role.

If the answer is “I don’t know really” you should count is as “no.

If you’d pay someone your own money to have them in the team and in the company it is obvious indicator telling that you consider the person as competent, non-toxic and cooperative. The same situation is with leaders – if you’d like to hire someone as a manager in your dream company they can’t suck. Or do they?

If you ask me, I’d hire my whole team in my own company. After all, this isn’t the first organization we all work in.

Now think how many of your current colleagues and managers you’d want to see as a part of your own business. I’m curious to hear your answers.

in: team management

9 comments… add one

  • jfbauer August 6, 2010, 9:58 am

    Great questions … your average corporate IT setting doesn’t always give one the latitude to assemble your dream team expediently. It can be challenging to begin to see the team members start to jell and the overall productivity increasing quickly … only to get smacked with another re-org.

    Now if I could cherry pick folks from various teams in say the last 10 years I would be all set!

  • Bruce Lofland August 6, 2010, 10:48 am

    When you say that you would hire your whole team, that indicates to me that you are in the performing stage of team development and that you work well together. I would also guess that the TEAM is very competent. Congratulations! :)
    I don’t think this endorsement says a lot about the individuals except that they are at least reasonably competent. If you put each of the individuals on a different team in a different environment they may not perform as well.
    I could not say whether I would hire someone unless I knew the environment they would be going in. Someone from a corporate environment may not perform well in a small business and vice versa.

  • Pawel Brodzinski August 6, 2010, 11:37 am


    That’s exactly what most people would say: if only we could cherry pick folks we worked with over years – that would be so damn good team.

    On the other hand, in most but small organizations I guess we’d choose like 10% or less people to our startup. After all we wouldn’t want just above average people. We would want only best of breed.

  • Pawel Brodzinski August 6, 2010, 11:41 am


    Actually the endorsement says a lot about individuals. I didn’t go into details but I would hire each of them too. That is, considering I have a job for them of course.

    Yes, they might perform differently in different teams, especially if the environment was vastly different from what see around now. But then it wouldn’t be my organization if the work environment was so much different.

    The whole test should be taken a bit as an academic problem. After all no one would hire the best specialist if they didn’t have a suitable position to fill.

  • Josh Nankivel August 6, 2010, 9:22 pm

    Right on Pawel! As I said recently in my video Project Management Interview Tips, as a hiring manager I always ask myself if this is the type of person that I will be happy I hired 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years from now.

    At any point, I should be able to ask that question. If I made the right choice, the answer will always be yes…yes….yes.


  • Pawel Brodzinski August 7, 2010, 1:42 am

    Actually when I’m a hiring manager situation is a bit different. I have a job to do and a position to fill in order to get the job done. Now it isn’t such a rare case when you can’t find an “ideal” candidate.

    Now, if I wanted to adjust to this criteria I might look long moths for suitable person. On the other hand I could lower the bar and find someone who i s good enough and should cope with a job. The answer? Well, much depends on a specific situation so there isn’t one which is always true.

    Anyway we often ends up hiring people who are at hand not ones we’d love to hire. Is it much different if you run own company? Well, I think we’d try hard to make it different, after all we don’t want to spend money on people who barely do the job. But I guess there are many compromises there too.

    But coming back to the point – in ideal situation we’d like only the best of breed, so this makes a great mental exercise to make when evaluating people we work with now.

  • Corporate Geek August 9, 2010, 4:28 am

    Would you hire the person to your own dream company to work in the same role?

    Great question. I guess I’m lucky that i can say “yes!” about 40-50% of the project teams I’ve worked with.

  • John Hunter August 23, 2010, 4:48 am

    Hiring is not easy. One of the feelings I use as a basis of judgement is – do I fear this person will take another job before we hire them. If so, they are someone we should hire. Are they someone that it may well make sense to hire? Well we can consider it but I would rather find people that I am scared we will lose. Sometimes finding those types isn’t easy.

  • Pawel Brodzinski August 23, 2010, 5:08 am


    This is pretty good definition of gut feeling. You don’t really know whether you have to hire the person now, but you feel you should hurry.

    I often follow this feeling but it isn’t a sure shot for me. It happened a couple of times it ended up with what could hardly be called great hires. I would lie if I said they were mediocre, but they had flaws which disqualified them as team players.

    Actually they would fail “would I hire them once more?” test even though at that time my gut feeling told me to hire.

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