Virtuoso or Agile?

I recently read an article on Virtuoso Teams by Bill Fischer and Andy Boynton. On the same day I listened to Ken Schwaber talk about Wrestling Gold from Today's Software Projects. I was struck with the contrast between what the authors call "Virtuoso" and what we would call agile...

Consider the following:
Virtuoso teams comprise the elite experts in their particular fields and are specially convened for ambitious projects. Their work style has a frenetic rhythm. They emanate a discernible energy. They are utterly unique in the ambitiousness of their goals, the intensity of their conversations, the degree of their esprit, and the extraordinary results they deliver.

Unlike traditional teams - which are typically made up of whoever's available, regardless of talent - virtuoso teams consist of star performers who are handpicked to play specific, key roles. These teams are intense and intimate, and they work best when members are forced together in cramped spaces under strict time constraints. They assume that their customers are every bit as smart and sophisticated as they are, so they don't cater to a stereotypical "average." Leaders of virtuoso teams put a premium on great collaboration - and they're not afraid to encourage creative confrontation to get it.

In the article they out how to build a virtuoso team?

  1. Assemble the Stars
    If you want great performances of any type, you have to start with great people.

  2. Build the Group Ego
    Traditional teams typically operate under the tyranny of the "we" - that is, they put group consensus and constraint above individual freedom. Team harmony is important; conviviality compensates for missing talent. This produces teams with great attitudes and happy members, but, to paraphrase Liebman, "from a polite team comes a polite result."

    When virtuoso teams begin their work, individuals are in and group consensus is out. As the project progresses, however, the individual stars harness themselves to the product of the group. Sooner or later, the members break through their own egocentrism and become a plurality with a single-minded focus on the goal. In short, they morph into a powerful team with a shared identity.

  3. Make Work a Contact Sport
    Typical teams are all too often spatially dispersed - they are managed remotely and get together only occasionally for debate and discussion. Most of the time, such a scenario works quite well. But when big change and high performance are required, these standard working conditions fall short of the mark. In virtuoso teams, individual players energize each other and stimulate ideas with frequent, intense, face-to-face conversations, often held in cramped spaces over long periods of time. The usual rounds of e-mails, phone calls, and occasional meetings just don't cut it.

    When virtuoso teams are in action, impassioned dialogue becomes the critical driver of performance, not the work itself. The inescapable physical proximity of team members ensures that the right messages get to the right people-fast. As a result, virtuoso teams operate at a pace that is many times the speed of normal project teams.

  4. Challenge the Customer
    Virtuoso teams believe that customers want more, not less, and that they can appreciate the richness of an aggrandized proposition. Virtuoso teams deliver solutions that are consistent with this higher perception. The vision of the demanding customer becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, for while competitors create diminished offerings for their clients, virtuoso teams redefine taste and expectations and raise the level of market acceptability.

  5. Herd the Cats

  6. Most leaders of traditional teams-even those working on big projects-emphasize consensus and compromise. Their goal is to keep stress levels low, meet deadlines, and produce acceptable results. By contrast, leaders of virtuoso teams must be far more deft and forceful. Their goal is to help individual performers, and the group as a whole, achieve their utmost potential.

    The worst thing you can do to highly talented, independent people is to constrain their expressiveness; you have to trust and encourage their talents. At the same time, however, a team made up of these individuals must meet strict goals and deadlines. Balancing the virtuosos' needs for individual attention and intellectual freedom with the uncompromising demands and time lines of a high-stakes project requires unusual skill. For this reason, leaders of virtuoso teams assume different kinds of roles, and use different management tools, than do leaders of traditional teams

I also like a summary that ComputerWorld did comparing traditional teams and virtuoso teams:
Choose members for availability
Emphasize the collective
Focus on tasks
Work individually and remotely
Address the average customer

Choose members for skills
Emphasize the individual
Focus on ideas
Work together intensively
Address the sophisticated customer