David Anderson has an interesting post about a book he recently read that suggests “In flat structures with highly empowered, self-organizing teams (Farson calls these highly participative teams) the team members will tend to attack and weed out the strongest (or stronger) member(s), often the leader. In hierarchical structures, with command and control structures, the members will tend to attack and weed out the weaker members.” David then makes some conclusions about what this would mean if it were true for Agile development teams (which tend to be more flat than hierarchical). He suggests that if the book’s author is correct than team membership would be better served to be grouped according to technical ability (with the groups being based on like ability) rather than spreading the weaker technical members around.
At Intel I am not sure how I see this playing a part – our culture is hierarchical by nature and so even in the Agile teams command and control structures exist. Also it becomes a little more difficult because you always have to factor in politics into team dynamics at companies as large as Intel. Weaker technical people may be much better at playing the politics and that muddies things because in a lot of cases weaker technical skills can be masked by playing a good political game.