SWAT Team

Do you have a SWAT team at your company?

We didn’t either… Until last year.

For us, SWAT was a happy accident.

Last year, after a few years in the family business, Khaled Antar, one of our original team members rejoined us. Khaled, was a leader and senior engineer for us when he left. Years later, he returned to a new group, a new culture and new set of teams.

Khaled and I met to build a job description and strategy for his new position. We looked to find a way to maximize his impact. In looking at his strengths, we recognized a breadth of skills and a unique ability to shine brightly in turmoil. His calm demeanor and leadership in crisis, are his strong asset. His communication skills with clients, help to lower stress. His broad expertise allows him to tackle most any problem.

Seems like it would be easy to find a fit, right?

Not as easy as you might imagine. Our teams were established and our workload highly structured. Adding Khaled to an existing team could lessen his impact. Creating a new team could be disruptive. I needed a night to think.

I am not sure where the inspiration came from, but while driving home, the idea of a SWAT team materialized. I began imagining the quick response of specialists in times of need. As I walked in the door I opened my laptop and began doing research on SWAT teams. My only experience at that point had been watching Samuel L Jackson and Colin Farrell defend LA.

My research came back with great results and inspired our new team.

SWAT dictionary definition: “any group of specialists brought in to solve a difficult or urgent problem.”

With excitement, Khaled and I met in the morning and we developed the framework for SWAT.

What company doesn’t need specialists to solve urgent problems?

At Think|Stack we plan our sprints and schedule teams to capacity. When emergencies arise, they create disruption to our teams and schedule. As a managed service company, emergencies arise regularly, from security threats to outages, to delayed projects, issues arise. We do our best to build slack, but seeing the future is often difficult. We didn’t always have the right person, with the right expertise available at the right time.

Following the SWAT methodology allowed us to react faster, with the right team, in a calm and planned fashion. So far, we have been thrilled with the results. I would suggest that if you haven’t already built a similar team, you need to go do that!

Here is how our SWAT team works. I hope it can help inspire the creation of your teams!

Team Development

The SWAT team is led by Khaled and SWAT is his full-time job. As we grow, Khaled will add more full time SWAT members. However, at this stage, he has a group of volunteers from other teams. The volunteers create a well-rounded team with varying skillsets ready to respond when needed. The team meets to practice and train to be ready for what could be on the horizon. Ongoing skill development and practice, help keep everybody calm and confident when issues arise.

Crisis Response

Whether we have an outage or security threat, our SWAT team now leads crisis response. If an issue reaches SWAT criticality, our team is deployed. Khaled as team lead, coordinates an immediate crisis meeting. During this time, experts from all teams collaborate and create an action plan. The team then uses necessary resources to resolve and manage the crisis through its completion. Minimizing impact to other teams and ensuring that the right resources are deployed.

Project Acceleration

Thankfully, we don’t live in crisis mode. However, with resources dedicated to SWAT we look to fill their capacity with projects that need help getting across the finish line. The SWAT team is well positioned to provide manpower and expertise.

Coverage

Teams have needs when vacation and sickness strikes. The SWAT team is able to fill in short term and long term.

Auditing

When filling the gaps of their schedule auditing has been a great filler task. Khaled’s senior experience and expertise makes for a great auditor. And auditing doesn’t come with stringent deadlines. This allows for work that can be done during down time.

Pride

This team takes great pride in their work. Crises used to be stressful and negative. They are now exciting opportunities to showcase the hard work and training the team has put in. It has been fun watching as the team reacts. Despite long hours and distraction, they are happy and proud of the results.

The Outcomes

1. Faster and more planned response to crisis.

2. Full utilization of resources and expertise when needed.

3. Minimized disruption to production.

4. Accelerated project completion.

5. Improved training and development.

6. Increased overall client and team happiness

Go build your SWAT team today!