Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 3: Process Patterns

Super Star Pattern

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Super Star refers to exceptional and bankable actors. These are individuals that are head and shoulders above their peers (e.g. Michael Jordon and Larry Bird) and tend to make everyone around them better as well. Every project team should consider itself blessed if it has a Super Star (more than one may be problematic) in its cast. Not only do these individuals pull their weight, they often pull more than their fair share.

Do you believe that it is reasonable, and just, for Super Stars to be compensated only marginally better than their peers? Would Al Pacino or Robert De Niro be happy with this type of compensation knowing they are the box office draw? It is widely known, for example, that the best developers are capable of producing an order of magnitude more quality “stuff” than those that are average. In business computing organizations I have never seen this compensation chasm adequately addressed. You do not have to pay Super Stars 10X more than everyone else, but you do need to recognize their achievements and provide preferential compensation.

All this talk about the importance of teams should not prevent us from treating special individuals in unique ways. Money should always be part of the equation but preferential treatment need not stop there. Paid vacations, T1 lines at home, use your imagination! Yeah this will drive HR up the fucking wall but so what? I will go out of my way to accommodate this type of individual, as long as the reward system does not turn them into a Bad Actor.

If you are a Director and you are asking yourself how do you know that someone is a Super Star then you should fire yourself. A good Director always knows.

Super Stars need to be treated and compensated as such.

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