Monday, September 3, 2012

You think "that" about teamwork?

TeamworkHere are six misperceptions that HBR's J. Richard Hackman found out through research:

Misperception #1: Harmony helps. Smooth interaction among collaborators avoids time-wasting debates about how best to proceed.

Comment: A bit of creative tension is indeed useful. High-performance teams are usually also high-energy teams, that know how to navigate conflict well. I suggest that a deeper harmony exists in high-performance teams, not just superficially. People trust each other to express diverging opinions and then creatively integrate them for the benefit of all involved. That's true harmony - not just the surface appearance of it.

Misperception #2: It's good to mix it up. New members bring energy and fresh ideas to a team. Without them, members risk becoming complacent, inattentive to changes in the environment, and too forgiving of fellow members' misbehavior.

Comment: No surprises here - longer lived teams fare much better. We can safely continue to push for long-lived Agile teams in pursuit of high performance.

Misperception #3: Bigger is better. Larger groups have more resources to apply to the work. Moreover, including representatives of all relevant constituencies increases the chances that whatever is produced will be accepted and used.

Comment: No surprise here either - 7+/-2 still seems to work best.

Misperception #4: Face-to-face interaction is passé. Now that we have powerful electronic technologies for communication and coordination, teams can do their work much more efficiently at a distance.

Comment: Yes, we must keep pushing for more face-to-face contact in order to improve the flow of value.

Misperception #5: It all depends on the leader. Think of a team you have led, or on which you have served, that performed superbly. Now think of another one that did quite poorly. What accounts for the difference between them? If you are like most people, your explanation will have something to do with the personality, behavior, or style of the leaders of those two teams.

Comment: Yes, self-organizing teams matter most for achieving success. It's not just the leader - it's up to all of us to make our teams run like greased lightning...

Misperception #6: Teamwork is magical. To harvest its many benefits, all one has to do is gather up some really talented people and tell them in general terms what is needed--the team will work out the details.

Comment: Yes, teamwork requires work. High performance doesn't just emerge or happen as soon as you've dropped the "ingredients" together and stirred a bit.

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