Two traps that hurt real team performance have to do with work assignments. Those who have mastered the team discipline know that mutual accountability for shared work and shared performance is a hallmark of real teams. Put differently, if a small group can achieve the overall performance objectives through a series of individual work assignments, then the group does not need the team discipline for success. The single leader discipline will work better.
However, if a small group faces a performance challenge that cannot be achieved through the sum of individual best contributions — in other words, if success depends on one or more critical pieces of work being done by two or more people who collaborate in real time and hold themselves mutually accountable — then the team discipline is required. The single leader discipline’s dependence on individual contribution will fall short.
Consider, for example, a small group challenged to redesign a bank branch to improve customer experience and lower operating costs. One can imagine folks with customer service, operations, marketing, and communications skills in such a group. Well, my guess is that if every individual with functional expertise were assigned individual work products — and that was the sum total of the work of the group — the group would fall short.
Why? Because I’m guessing that both improving the customer’s experience and reducing operating costs requires some collective work products mutually delivered by, say, the operations and customer service folks, or perhaps each of them plus a marketing person.
Now for the twin traps.
Trap No. 1: ‘Virtual” collective work products that turn into indivudal work products. For groups whose members are not physically co-located and must use the team discipline virtually, there is a great temptation to assume a collective work product has been assigned when, in fact, because of time and distance, folks end up ‘dividing up’ the tasks into individual work products. One of the special challenges of teaming virtually is to use explicit, self-conscious steps to be sure your group is not falling into this trap.
Trap No. 2: Work products assigned to ‘everyone on the team’. While not impossible, it is rare for any team to have very many particular work products requiring the real time collaboration of all the folks on the team. It is much more likely to need the work divided into a series of both individual and collective work products — and that the those collective work products are best owned and done by more than one person, but less than ‘everyone’. This last trap is especially prevalent among teams at the top where past habit and culture often lead to either a naive or cynical approach of ‘we’ll all do this together’.
Posted by Doug Smith on November 30, 2005 07:53 PM | Permalink
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