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The question is about increasing the competency level of a team, in a big company.

I am trying to understand how corporations maintain a talented workforce in their teams. So far I can see a common model where a manager brings in lieutenants who might or might not be talented and productive. These lieutenants are positioned strategically to reinforce the manager's power.

The onus of being productive and deliver often falls on the shoulders of other team members, who might be more productive and end up being critical to deliver. These people are meant to be "team players" and help "laggers" in their work, as it's a "team effort".

Ideally, the whole team would be selected to a certain standard. But the request is to "help bad performers". The group of bad performers than keeps hiring in a similar way, with "connected people" being compensated by more productive individuals.

By following the requirement of "being a team player", one ends up supporting and validating the previous groups of bad performers. The question is: is such a model the standard for big companies, and is there a way to increase the team's level and pressure bad performers to move out of the way?

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a manager brings in lieutenants who might or might not be talented and productive. These lieutenants are positioned strategically to reinforce the manager's power.

This to me is indicative of a terrible workplace. If your managers are hiring people to reinforce their own little fiefdom rather than for the good of the company, they are terrible managers and need to be removed. That's the job of the senior managers, and so on up the chain.

What you can do about this? Probably not much - there's no way you're going to be able to improve the team if people are being hired and fired based on something other than their talent.

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  • Yeah there is a lot of ignorance and management is asleep at the wheel at my company. Bottom line is they would prefer not to rock the boat by getting rid of people so they can continue to feed at the corporate feeding trough. – Lijo Sep 12 '19 at 12:36
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is such a model the standard for big companies

No.

There is no standard for big companies. Big companies deal with teams in many varied ways.

You seem to be conflating a number of issues regarding hiring "lieutenants" and "laggards" and "validating bad performers" and "team effort". And you seem to believe that a team of talented individuals always translates into a top performing team.

In my experience that isn't the case. Most teams are not constructed solely of stars, and some stars make poor team mates. A good team is often greater than the sum of its parts.

is there a way to increase the team's level and pressure bad performers to move out of the way?

There are many ways to pressure bad performers to move out of the way.

I interviewed at one company who paid their top 5% performers enough so that they "couldn't afford to leave" and methodically fired their bottom 5% performers. That was their stated method to remove who they felt were "bad performers".

The company no longer exists.

Other companies put bad performers on PIPs, then fire them.

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    Microsoft stopped doing this some years ago. (“The lost decade” according to their new CEO). The awful thing about this is that employees don’t get rewarded or punished for being good or bad performers but for being better or worse than others. Which means that backstabbing better performers is more effective than trying to do a good job to be rewarded. – gnasher729 Sep 12 '19 at 11:47
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There are multiple strategies which range from ruthless hiring and firing, to micromanaging and anything in between. No one size fits all works with humans.

The best strategies to my mind are those that in broad strokes reward on several levels, not just for production, but also for work ethic and other useful traits. As far as performers go the bigger the company the easier to both find bad performers and use them most efficiently. You put them into roles that suit their skills and temperament and everyone wins if you want to retain them, and you get rid of those you don't need.

If your managers are not already doing something along those lines then you need to look at that tier and whoever is supposed to be watching them.

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