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How to Break Role Divisions

“We learn from the past,” says Hao Xu, head of technology for China, explaining how role divisions originated in software teams.

I spoke with Xu in a 26-minute interview about how to create a collaborative environment within a team by breaking down barriers between roles.

We discussed how the nature of software development is antithetical to the role-based, hierarchical workplace pioneered by Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, which have influenced managers for centuries.

Software development is different because, as Xu puts it, “There is no such thing, in a knowledge workplace, as repeatable work.”

The secret to ensuring that a team functions well, he proposes, is to break down as many knowledge barriers between team members as possible. Role divisions, being a form of knowledge barrier, should be the first target.

Break down role divisions

“As a manager, what I really care about is your knowledge profile,” Xu says, “and what I really care about in a team is that there are no knowledge barriers.”

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Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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