Thursday, September 8

Teams: Fast Track or Trendy Trap? 

I recently worked with a client who had drunk too much Kool-Aid. TEAM Kool-Aid, that is. She would talk in glowing terms about how her organization had embraced "the team concept" and how leading her team effectively was important to her, and how proud she was of being selected for a leadership role on the team.

Now, at the same time, she also mentioned that this whole team thing didn't come easy. Some team members were difficult, entrenched, hostile, or just stuck in the mud of being in the same job at the same place for more years than they'd care to count. The company had them read books, sent them to training, hosted meetings. The company really wanted to push this team thing through to success.

But you know what? Sometimes teams just don't cut it.

Many organizations take great pride in describing themselves as “team-based.” Scores of business books and magazine articles glorify and exalt teamwork over just about every other kind of organizational initiative.

It’s easy to see why. Information technology and the competition of global markets have created flatter organizations, which have turned to teams to replace a top-down approach to addressing business challenges and to supplant individual effort with group strength.

Granted, teams have enabled some companies to take giant leaps forward in such areas as time to market, innovation, customer service, and quality of goods and services.

But teams are not always the best way to accomplish a job. In their enthusiasm for teams, especially “high performance” teams, organizations often ignore the difficulties and costs of forming and launching teams. Teams typically need more time and more training to achieve results than do other kinds of work units. Teams may run counter to a company’s established culture and reward systems. These challenges can block a team from operating at peak performance.

And this is what was happening to my client. So perhaps it's time for this company to put down the Kool-Aid, stop pursuing the cult of the "team" and start joining the cult I belong to: the cult of what WORKS.

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