Looking for high performance in your organization? Then take a good look at teams vs. groups. Kenneth P. De Meuse, of the Korn/Ferry Institute cites how work teams appear to be gaining in strength as jobs get bigger, organizational structures get more complex, and more and more companies become multi-national in scope (Naquin & Tynan, 2003).
The VUCA nature (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) of our fast changing environment creates a need to break through ossified industrial age habits. For example, think of how hard it is to let go of entrenched systems like performance management and individual performance appraisals (next post.) Corporate change and adaptation can be greatly helped by determined work teams with a mission.
At the start, it’s important to notice the difference between teamwork vs. group or pseudo-team work. There are pros & cons on either side of the teams / groups chart.
Download the full handout (.pdf) here: 6 Choices High Performance- Team Group, Psuedo-Team
See more teamwork tools on my TOOLS page.
Teams can be loose, ad-hoc teams, task focused, even informal and “in the moment” (Americans, think 9-11, crisis-response). Teams can help revolutionize a culture and help leaders blast through conventional barriers and work through, rather than suppress resistance to change.
Putting people together does not a team make. Research has shown that most teams, or what are called teams, consistently underperform and many fail (Hackman, 2002.) From my last post on 3 Success Factors for High Performance Teams, you can see visually that high performance teams are hot-rod versions of true teams.
The Losada and research examples and a sample video story featuring the expansive butterfly energy patterns of high and medium performance teams, and video story of a high performing team, and the emu-flightless nugget that is a low performing team.
“It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
~ Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Fortunately, we now have classic and new science to help us understand what helps define great teamwork as well as its cousin, ‘in the moment” teamwork, including the concept of the first follower. Followership is essential to teamwork, and is connected to our own pre-language history.
“…the best predictors of productivity at the team’s energy and engagement outside of formal meetings. … how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct.”
Alex “Sandy” Pentland, Director of the Human Dynamics Laboratory at MIT has written about his team findings including both ancient human history featuring pre-language teamwork as well as recent 2012 high performing team research. His team’s research found that the best predictors of productivity were the team’s energy and engagement outside of formal meetings. It’s why I’ve become, slowly, a devotee of Open Space Technology techniques. He clarified:
How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it’s not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct.
- Communicate frequently.
- Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members.
- Engage in frequent informal communication.
- Explore for ideas and information outside the group.
A myth-busting finding from their research is that communications skills can be taught, and access to data is highly empowering to all team members:
…these patterns of communication are highly trainable, and that personality traits we usually chalk up to the “it” factor — personal charisma, for example — are actually teachable skills.
Data is an …ally to team members who may otherwise be afraid to voice their feelings about [problems with] the team dynamics. They can finally say “I’m not being heard” and they have the data to back them up.
They conducted this research in 21 organizations over the past seven years, measuring the communication patterns of about 2,500 people, for up to six weeks at a time. Their research was NOT on prototypical college-students-as-subjects. The 2,500 people included company innovation teams, post-operative wards in hospitals, customer-facing teams in banks, and call center teams in businesses.
In other research conducted at Harvard, after 9-11, I’ve previously shared the research that the surprising #1 factor of high performing teams is a sub-culture of giving AND receiving. This also supports “Sandy” Pentland’s communication research.
So? What can we do differently?
How can we seize the day?
What can we do to embrace the trainability of greatly improved patterns of communication?
How can we adapt so that high performance teams become more of an everyday reality rather than a rarity?
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
~ Michael Jordan, American former pro basketball player, entrepreneur and majority owner and chairman of the Charlotte Bobcats
Up Next: A history of performance management, as well as letting go and getting un-stuck from performance reviews. I’m also presenting, next Tuesday, at the MI-SHRM 25th Annual Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan. (Scroll down to see the MISHRM session entitled: From Chaos to Creative: Performance Development in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.) It’s about ending industrial age practices, as described below.
Hackman, Richard. (2002) Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Meldem, René. (2002) “A Critical Note on “The Wisdom of Teams,” MBA student paper.
Pentland, Alex “Sandy.” (April 2012) The New Science of Building Great Teams, Harvard Business Review.
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