In The Wisdom of Teams, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith explained that, for a working group to coalesce as a team, it needs a common goal, complementary skills, and mutual accountability among members. It sounds simple, but it is in fact a tall order, and there is no evidence that it is sufficient. The authors don’t claim it is, but they found these characteristics among successful teams in sports and business, and found them lacking in unsuccessful ones.
What Makes a Great Team
Let us explore the meaning of these three characteristics in more detail:
1. A common goal. It can be organizing a successful conference, or JFK’s “before this decade is out, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” or building a motorcycle that wins a race. Whatever it is, the goal must be clearly stated in few words, with obvious success criteria, for team members to sign up.
See on Scoop.it – lean manufacturing
In his 1951 novel Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut describes team building games that were eerily similar to the ones in this article. This approach has therefore been around US corporations for at least 60 years. But does it work?
We know that simulation games are effective as a Lean training tool, for example, but they are direct metaphors for the production work the participants do. The idea that generic games, unrelated to work, would be effective at developing teamwork is anything but obvious.
A promoter of this approach is quoted in the article as citing “research from MIT,” which I couldn’t find on Google. Experimental proof would require two groups of similar teams engaged in similar projects, with one group using these exercises and the other not. Then it would compare their performance on work projects.
We are also supposed to show respect for people. How respectful is it to an employee’s expertise to put him or her through this kind of experience? With the same time and money, you could send a machinist to a seminar on new cutting tools, with the duty to report on learnings to colleagues, or you could send a warehouse manager to learn about, say, RFID.
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