Drucker on Management: There's More Than One Kind of Team
By PETER F. DRUCKER
This column was originally published Feb. 11, 1992.
"Team building" has become a buzzword in American business. The results are not overly impressive. Ford Motor Co. began more than 10 years ago to build teams to design its new models. It now reports "serious problems," and the gap in development time between Ford and its Japanese competitors has hardly narrowed. General Motors' Saturn Division was going to replace the traditional assembly line with team work in its "factory of the future." But the plant has been steadily moving back toward the Detroit-style assembly line. Procter & Gamble launched a team-building campaign with great fanfare several years ago. Now P&G is moving back to individual accountability for developing and marketing new products. One reason -- perhaps the major one -- for these near-failures is the all-but-universal belief among executives that there is just one kind of team. There actually are three -- each different in its structure, in the behavior it demands from its members, in its strengths, its vulnerabilities, its limitations, its requirements, but above all, in what it can do and should be used for. The first kind of team is the baseball team. The surgical team that performs an open-heart operation and Henry Ford's assembly line are both "baseball teams." So is the team Detroit traditionally sets up to design a new car. The players play on the team; they do not play as a team. They have fixed positions they never leave. The second baseman never runs to assist the pitcher; the anesthesiologist never comes to the aid of the surgical nurse. "Up at bat, you are totally alone," is an old baseball saying. In the traditional Detroit design team, marketing people rarely saw designers and were never consulted by them. Designers did their work and passed it on to the development engineers, who in turn did their work and passed it on to...
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