Team leadership reorganization

The way our team works right now is we have 4 subgroup captains, and a team captain who is also a subgroup captain. What I want to do is take the four major subgroups of my team (Electrical, Mechanical, Software, and Design/Strategy), and make the four leaders of those subgroups leaders of the team. Instead of 1 single leader, there would be 4 Co-leaders that make executive decisions together.

What are your thoughts on this? Does anyone have any experience with multiple team captains?



I would say to drop it down to 3, or even 2…4 is much more likely to lead to split decisions(yes, 2 arguably would do the same, but then there would be less antagonism; two people against eachother vs 4). Also, in my experience, it’s just easier to manage with less people in overall executive lead.

Subgroup leaders, depending on the team size (I would say 25-30 or above) can still exist, but by no means should the subgroup leaders default to being overall executive leaders. With subgroup leaders, I definitely feel as though an overall team leader (or 2 for that matter) is necessary. But if you have 4 subgroup leaders, I don’t think that that should at all mean that the 4 subgroup leaders should all be executive leaders…

Yes, this post is very scrambled and probably makes no sense to anyone outside of my mind, which is a little fried right now(yay finals studying). But I’d be willing to clarify/answer further questions.

The only reason I’m saying 4 are because we’re all really good friends and get along easily. Plus, we all just happen to be really good at the 4 different parts of the team.

Which sub-group is your captain from?

If your friendships transcend FIRST (ie. you were friends before being members of your team, you hang out all the time, you’re bffl’s) then I would say (from some experience) that is NOT a good idea, as occasionally, rifts will happen, which could effect both your friendships and your success as a team.
And again, 4 is too many IMO, unless you have it be tiered where, for example, one of you is overall ‘head executive’, another is slightly lower, and two lower ones, maybe some equals. Again, another post that makes little sense.

Your team seems to have a similar structure to mine. We have 4 officers, 1 president and 3 vice-presidents. For FRC, these four people are subteam leads (we split up subteams by robot subsystem). When it comes to executive decisions, we all sit down and discuss the problem and ways to solve it. The president has the final say, only if a decision cannot be made by the four officers. Common sense must be used and the four people must be able to listen to each other and not take things too personally. We rarely have a need for the president to make a decision by himself as we go through our options logically and it is usually quite straightforward to choose to most logical option. While other members of the team are encouraged to attend these meetings and participate in the discussion, officers are required to attend the meetings. Also, we always have mentors at our meetings so that they can help us solve any problems and bring up concerns that they may have.

The president’s main job is to organize the meeting and keep the others on track. The president does not really have more power than the other officers, but he is the face of the club and is in charge of organizational things such as meeting agendas.

On our team, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AN ELECTED OFFICER TO HELP MAKE DECISIONS, you only need to be dedicated and willing to both present your ideas and listen to others. This makes the leadership less isolated and lets other members contribute to the decision making process.

I’m in the Design and Strategy division.

We all are friends before. I understand where you’re coming from, with the unexpected rifts. I’ve been in some before. We think we can get through it, though. We’re the type of friends who work to cover each other’s weaknesses.

Sounds like my idea. Except I’m thinking more of a less-tiered system. We let everyone give input on decisions, but mainly the veterans decide, since they have more experience with what works and what doesn’t, but we’re sure to explain why. I’m thinking we keep doing that, but with 4 people with the most experience delegated to help make those executive decisions.

Our team has traditionally had a fairly loose government. In the past we’ve just had subteam leaders, who are the seniors in their subteams (electrical, mechanical, programming), who share the leadership- and one would pretty much always emerge as the captain-captain. However, based on my experience, and what I’ve heard from my sisters’ experiences, this almost always results in some combination of captains hating each other’s guts. This year we certainly had a couple issues… even with captains who were good friends. But it’s important to remember we’re a fairly small team, I think around 16 or 17 kids this year, so this might be different with you.

For next year mentors/seniors decided to change the structure and solidify it, actually to what you’re thinking of leaving- a captain with subteam leaders. We’ll see if it works any better! We’re a pretty student-driven team, so I hope it does.

Having been the core team leader of our team for 3 years and having gone through our teams Leadership structure development, I would like to recommend the following.

What may work now(4 team leaders w/ shared responsibility) will probably not work for every subsequent year of your team. Focus on developing a structure and organization that is sustainable through all fluctuations in team membership. For three years, our team changed its leadership structure every year to mold to the students on the team, something you want to prevent from happening.

Through these three years our team has grown from 7 to 13 to 25 students, and with the team expected to be at around 35-40 students next year, we needed something that could provide long term structure. Our team’s overall goal is twofold: 1) Spreading the ideals of FIRST through inspiration. and 2) Developing leaders. We believe it should be the youth driving the future of the organization (our team), and that every person who wants to hold a leadership position should be able to have one.

With that, we developed our leadership structure, and established how it would work with expanding or retracting team membership. --A long term solution.

Set out what your goals are for the leadership, and slit up the tasks between the people, but do not have them all hold a “co-president position”.

Hopefully this makes sense? IF you would like me to share our team manual that covers our leadership structure, let me know via PM, and I can email it to you.

I would suggest having one “president” (the title does not matter but one person must be identified), who is willing and able to make a final decision in the event that the other members do not agree. Also, I understand your thought that mainly the veterans decide, but remember that rookies can have good ideas. If any person or a group of people are disregarded, they will become detached from the team. Make sure that ideas are not dismissed or overruled, but that a different idea has been shown to be more suited to your team and its goals. Lastly, avoid arguing “Larry’s idea vs. Rob’s idea,” instead, discuss “shooter vs. dumper.” By connecting people to an idea, they are less likely to see it as deciding which idea is a better option, and more likely to see it a personal battle.

I like that. I like that a lot. I’m sometimes bad at wording things, and I apologize for this. We don’t disregard anyone, even the freshman. I just mean the more experienced people use their experience to filter out things that unexperienced people don’t know. The mentors do this in our team as well. Our team was completely new in 2011, and in 2012 we wanted a long bot. However, our more experienced mentors told us that a wide robot that could pick up from both sides would have a huge advantage to a long one that picked up from one side, based on their days as mentors in 2006 and 2009. They didn’t disregard what we said, they provided new ideas and information we hadn’t thought of. That’s my goal with these 4 leaders. Have the 4 experienced people who can say "Instead of using ultrasonic sensors to see where we are on the field, let’s use a gyro because of x, y, and z (forgot the reasons).

Agreed, and I think this another reason to shy away from the “4 equals” concept. You 4 may be best friends, but for all you know, the next 4 subteam leaders could absolutely hate eachother. For sustainability of a team, a structure that doesn’t needed to be changed is best; changes sorta only being needed if the team experiences large growth.

We have two leaders (co-presidents) of our team for redundancy.

Our leaders are chosen so that one leader is senior (in grade only). This senior leader would have been the junior leader last year, therefore they know (and more importantly can teach) the ropes to the junior leaders. In additions, academic stuff (tests, projects) will usually not affect both leaders at the same time. When we were chosen by last year’s dual leaders, they made sure that we could mesh well together. Both of our leaders are equally competent, and so the workload is split.

When someone needs something done, they come to either one of us. If it is something really important (like event organization or pizza flavor;) ), we’ll ask the other to help decide. Ordering parts, shirts, etc. can be done solo. We avoid confusion by making sure that we are both up to date as stuff happens during builds season, and weekly for the rest of the year.

We also have 3 subgroup leaders. They are the “Directors of ____(programming, mechanical, treasurer)”. Because of our team’s size, we let the Directors allocate students according to where they are needed. For example, someone who is good with both mechanical and programming will exist in both groups, depending on how many students a task will take.

Having dual leaders is a good system for us, as we haven’t had problems with it yet. However, four “quad leaders” would make communication and cohesiveness confusing and difficult to obtain with this system. If your are dead-set on four, I think they would have to specialize.

I would also tend to shy away from 4 equal leaders.

ONE PERSON, whether a member of the 4 or not (preferably not), needs to have the go/no-go authority. That person would give a go/no-go based on consensus of the 4 in normal situations, keep the 4 accountable to each other and to the rest of the team, and break any ties in the 4 leaders.

This person will also need to be good at easing disputes by mediation, keeping focus on the goal (and anything else that needs doing on the team like fundraising), and encouraging the team through tough times. Not an easy job. That’s why I’m saying the 4 probably shouldn’t be equal in the whole leadership of the team.

Think of it this way. There is the President of the United States, and the Cabinet. The Cabinet advises the President on what he could/should do–but the President has to make the choice.

So, this is why I’m suggesting one person to be the go/no-go person (and team captain or whatever you want to call him/her), over the 4. This raises a point of, what if the G/NG person isn’t there? Well, they can name a proxy if they aren’t there for a decision and know they won’t be, or you can go to the 4, with choice going either by seniority on the team or age from oldest to youngest, or you can have whoever’s department is most responsible for the decision make the final call. That’s something to handle within the team.

This is very important, and the captain must be willing to make a decision if everyone does not agree. I feel that this course of action should not have to be taken too often because an objective discussion and analysis of the problem should reach a solution that makes sense to everybody.

That makes sense. I guess we can have the president and cabinet setup next year. Thanks a bunch Eric!

Our team has co-captains (2-3) and subteam leaders for our 4 subteams (mechanical, electrical, programming, and PR). They don’t have to be the same people, and their responsibilities are very different.

Check out the Agile development and Scrum. It’s a process designed for short work cycles and rapid development, and can pretty easily be adapted to a FIRST environment. We have 1 week “sprints”, with clearly defined design, prototype and construction goals for each week. The captains act as the product owners, reviewing the work regularly (the end of every meeting) and ensuring we’re meeting our goals (reevaluating the schedule, if need). Our development teams are small (3-7 students), with that single leader acting as the scrum master. Decisions are made rapidly by the best person for that decision, which more often than not is NOT someone in an official leadership role. After all, you want technical decisions made by those most familiar with the product and its design, not someone whose focus is elsewhere but happens to have a fancy title.

Most importantly here, I would highly recommend making any organizational changes with the full knowledge and consent of the entire team. Have a meeting, raise your concerns, and talk with them about how you want to resolve those issues. Get them on board with the changes, otherwise you’ll likely hit some resistance along the way that could make the whole situation unpleasant.

This is extremely important. Make sure that all members are aware of any changes that are put into place. Also, explain to them how they can contribute through the new system as it will encourage them to become more involved with the team.

I helped restructure our team these past two years and we’ve been very successful in part of this restructuring.

Our team has a Student CEO/Team President and then two vice presidents: one for mechanical and one for public relations. The VPs oversee their “division” but assign tasks to other people to lead.

I was the student CEO this year, and my role was to simply outline a “blueprint” for team goals. I overlooked the technical aspect and ensured the robot had the necessary things we needed to present to the judges and helped with the pit. I wasn’t directly involved with the actual building of the bot though. On the PR side, I overlooked nearly every aspect; Scouting, Chairman’s, Community Service, Team Relations. I facilitated many of the projects we worked on on the PR side and created a to-do list for the team.

The Mechanical VP overlooked the robot and was directly involved with the robot building. The PR VP worked on Chairman’s and assisted me in handling day-to-day affairs for the team.

This system worked great for our team. We have roughly 40 students, give or take. Every team is different. The way it operates, size, mentor support, etc. all differs. Figure out how your team operated in the past.

My opinion the 4-captain theory: Having more than two student leaders who oversee the majority of the team’s operations can be extremely difficult and may cause conflict. Simply put, you’re going to have too many spoons in one bowl. Figure our who is best to lead the team and have the entire team vote on two captains. Also, keep in mind that although you four are friends, you are trying to create a team that is able to sustain for years to come. In three years, the four captains may clash like our Congress does, and that isn’t good for your team’s sustainability.

Sorry for the long post! lol. :slight_smile: