Skip to main content

Surprising truths about teams

not being a victim
Gary Collins called my attention to this from Harvard Business Review (May 2009) interview with Harvard Professor J. Richard Hackman, an expert on teams. He says the following about teams:   “Over the past couple of decades, a cult has grown up around teams. Even in a society as fiercely i…
By Seth Barnes
Gary Collins called my attention to this from Harvard Business Review (May 2009) interview with Harvard Professor J. Richard Hackman, an expert on teams. He says the following about teams:
 

“Over the past couple of decades, a cult has grown up around teams. Even in a society as fiercely independent as America, teams are considered almost sacrosanct. The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive is so widespread that when faced with a challenging new task, leaders are quick to assume that teams are the best way to get the job done.”

  • While some teams are effective, research consistently shows that teams under-perform despite all their extra resources. This is because competition and problems with coordination and motivation often undermine the benefits of collaboration.Small teams whose members stay together for long periods of time are the most effective.
  • The effectiveness and productivity of a team often is set in the first few minutes of the first team meeting. Conductor Christopher Hogwood said that orchestra members make a quick assessment at the beginning about whether or not they will work together to make great music. Do audiences also decide in the first couple of minutes whether or not they will respond positively to a speaker or new leader?
  • Every effective team has a deviant – sometimes a person appointed to that role – who challenges the team’s decisions and purposes. “Teams with deviants outperform teams without them. In many cases, deviant thinking is a source of great innovation” and creativity. Too much homogeneity can stifle creativity, productivity, and learning.
  • Good teams have structure, a compelling purpose, and a respected leader who articulates a clear direction and purpose.
  • Some people are not good team members. They undercut progress, refuse to work on collective solutions, and sometimes dominate.
  • Coaching with individual team members does not lead to more effective performance. But teams benefit from coaching as a group to help them function as a team, especially at the beginning, mid-point and conclusion.

Comments (7)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

about team