Discipline of Teams

Topics: Team, The A-Team, Team building Pages: 20 (6502 words) Published: March 28, 2011



It w o n t surprise anyone to find an article on teams by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith figuring into an issue devoted to high performance. While Peter Drucker may have been the first to point out that a team-based organization can be highly effective, Katzenbach and Smith's work made it possible for companies to implement the idea. In this groundbreaking 1993 article, the authors say that if managers want tomakebetterdecisionsaboutteamsjthey must be clear about what a team is. They define a team as"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."That definition lays down the discipline that teams must share to be effective. Katzenbach and Smith discuss the four elements - common commitment and purpose, performance goals, complementary skills, and mutual accountability - that make teams function. They also classify teams into three varieties - teams that recommend things, teams that make or do things, and teams that run things - and describe how each type faces different challenges.

The Discipline of Teams
by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith
I arly in the 1980s, Bill Greenwood

What makes the difference between a team that performs and one that doesn't?

(d a small band of rebel railroaders )n most of the top management of Burlington Northern and created a multibillion-dollar business in "piggybacking" rail services despite widespread resistance, even resentment, within the company. The Medical Products Group at Hewlett-Packard owes most of its leading performance to the remarkable efforts of Dean Morton, Lew Platt, Ben Holmes, Dick Alberding, and a handful of their colleagues who revitalized a health care business that most others had written off. At Knight Ridder, Jim Batten's "customer obsession" vision took root at the Tallahassee Democrat when 14 frontline enthusiasts turned a charter to eliminate errors into a mission

of major change and took the entire paper along with them. Such are the stories and the work of teams - real teams that perform, not amorphous groups that we call teams because we think that the label is motivating and energizing. The difference between teams that perform and other groups that don't is a subject to which most of us pay far too little attention. Part of the problem is that "team" is a word and concept so familiar to everyone. (See the exhibit "Not All Groups Are Teams: How to Tell the Difference.") Or at least that's what we thought when we set out to do research for our book The Wisdom ofTeams (HarperBusiness, 1993)- We wanted to discover what differentiates various levels of HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW



THE HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATION expressed by others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, providing support, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others. Such values help teams perform, and they also promote individual performance as well as the performance of an entire organization. But teamwork values by themselves are not exclusive to teams, nor are they enough to ensure team performance. (See the sidebar "Building Team Performance.") Nor is a team just any group working together. Committees, councils, and task forces are not necessarily teams. Groups do not become teams simply because that is what someone calls them. The entire workforce of any large and complex organization is never a team, but think about how often that platitude is offered up. To understand how teams deliver extra performance, we must distinguish between teams and other forms of working groups. That distinction turns on performance results. A working group's performance is a function of what its members do as individuals. A team's performance includes both individual results and what we call "collective work products." A collective work product is what two or more members...
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