Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Teams Don't Work

Well, actually teams do work, but not automatically. In fact, good high-performance teamwork is hard to come by. Here are some pot holes to avoid:


  • Teams are made too large. Teams are a way to organize small groups; they are not the antidote to bureaucracy.
  • Boundaries are too often left fuzzy – confusion is a productivity killer. What's in, what's out?
  • The mission is not made compelling; boredom and disinterest dont' set the stage for inspired work.
  • Team members too often are selected by making the easy choices, selected by position and availability and not by rigorous evaluation
  • There is no allowance for a 'nemesis' member to neutralize 'group think'.
  • Team membership is allowed to turnover too rapidly, thereby diluting cohesion and squandering productivity dependent upon personal relationships.


  • There is bad decision-making process or inadequate decision-making skills.
  • The membership includes difficult people, talented eccentrics that don't share and work collectively
  • There is competition among members, often leading to secrecy and compartmentalization, quite opposite to collaboration
  • There are empowerment uncertainties, awkward and untimely decision chains, and confusion about roles, rights, and responsibilities.
  • Many personnel issues are left unresolved: "What do I have to give up?"



For more reading and insight, take a look at these references:
Robbins, H and Finley, M. "The New Why Teams Don't Work: What goes wrong and how to make it right" Berrett - Koehler, San Francisco, 2000

Some ideas from this blog were inspired by: Coutu, D. "Why Teams Don't Work", Interview with Dr. J. Richard Hackman, Harvard Business Review, Boston, May 2009


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