Monday, May 26, 2014

What is a real team?

I recommend you read "The Discipline of Teams" by Katzenbach and Smith. See  It is an article.  And they also wrote a book with the same title. And their original book was The Wisdom of Teams.  All recommended.
In the article, they give a short definition of a real team. And they distinguish carefully between a real team and all other 'work groups.'
Here is the definition:
"A [real] team is a small number of people
with complementary skills who are committed to
a common purpose, set of performance goals,
and approach for which they hold themselves
mutually accountable."
As an aside, I think the authors really mean that the Team members hold each other mutually accountable for success, however they define success for their mission.
A real team is a difficult concept.  If you have been on a great team, you know in your blood what one is. Or, at least, that there was something special about the people as a Team.  If you have never had that experience, either in sports or at work, then it is all just some concepts.
And of course the real question is 'how do you form a high performance team?'
We can say that some people have this magic ability to form great teams.  One thinks of Coach K of Duke.  And many other great athletic coaches.  Some managers are famous for it. And some agile coaches and ScrumMasters are great at it.
It can be done.  And there are some special talents.
Let us give our first hints.
1. Get a good team.  They need to have the raw talent.
But raw talent alone is hardly the key. And almost no 'special' Team ever had all the skill sets on Day 0.
2. Get them to be team players.
This is key, and hard. First, they should care most about team success.
It is hard, because in some moments they must also be 'selfish' in a sense.  One person must demand the ball, as we say. But, the key is that they are driving toward team success.
3. They hold each other mutually accountable.
Quite key.
Not everyone is equal in ability.  And they each do not have exactly the same skill sets.  Yet, they each demand the best from each other.  And each person is willing to give, as we say 'all that you got.'  And they each help each other get better.  And sometimes that involves a tough conversation.
4. They communicate.
Coach K says this is key. And each great Team does it a bit differently.  One could say the communication is so good, it is almost unspoken.
And of course, every set of people communicates about something some of the time.  So, in a trivial way, communication is very common.
So, of course, we mean superior communication about the most important stuff at the toughest times.  Or something like that. The communication in great teams is in some way awesome.
5. They have a tough mission.
This seems to be essential.  The situation or a senior manager or they themselves give them (as a team) a tough mission. Something that is hard to do.  Something that they will fail at unless and until they come together as a real team.
And then, usually, they do come together, they do overcome their 'individual-ness' and become as good a team as they can become.
They say the mission forces them to become a real team.
6. Let them self-organize.
You must. It sounds hard. There is no other way.
You must let them fail some, and learn, and become self-reliant 'as a team.'
7. Don't let them flounder.
You are saying to yourself: "But, Joe, you just said 'let them self-organize' and now you say 'don't let them flounder.'  Which is it?"
And it is both.  OK, let them fail some.  But as a coach or a manager, you can help them.  Just don't get in the way of the self-organization.  And if they are really floundering, and it is important enough, then you must intervene.  Most people won't let them struggle enough.  The wise coach, the wise manager chooses just the right time to intervene.  Clear enough?
There is so much more to the art and science of building great teams.  Tell us all as you learn more.

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