(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are in bold.)
because of their focus on performance, teams motivate, challenge, reward, and
support individuals who are trying to change the way they do things.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
addition, the individual’s role and performance will become more a matter for
teams, instead of hierarchies of managers, to exploit; that is, in many cases
teams, not managers, will figure out what the individuals on those teams should
be doing and how they are performing.
These insights are very clearly reinforced through the "CorporateTheatre" workshops.
- At the end of a theatre production that is part of the workshop, the audience applauds the performing team and points out the elements they found interesting and energizing. It could be the expressions, it could be the sets, the props, the costumes, whatever. Often when the audience points out something specific as a production highlight, someone or other in the team will speak up saying, "it is so and so who gave that idea or made that prop". This person may have been doing a very insignificant role on the stage, and the audience may not have seen him or her as a star performer. But the team has no hesitation in projecting them as star contributors to the team's performance.
- In some of the contests that are part of the workshop, participants, in competing teams, have to move to higher and higher levels of challenge with quantum increase in the stakes. Finally, the winning or losing hinges on one last 'killer' round which participants are told, is 'extremely difficult' or even 'almost impossible'. Each round requires a designated leader or 'primary actor' who has to take on the major responsibility for the team's performance by setting them in the right direction. Until the killer round, teams are not allowed to repeat the primary actor. However, for the critical final round, they are allowed to nominate anyone as a leader, even if the person has been a primary actor in an earlier round. Teams have no difficulty with this decision. Almost inevitably, they nominate a person who has performed brilliantly in an earlier round. When asked what was the criteria for selecting their leader for the killer round, almost always the answer is, "earlier performance".
It is therefore clear, that even when all individuals in a 'natural' team are totally aligned to the collective success of the team the significance of star performance or performers is never lost or diluted. Further, when the team has a significant say in deciding who the star performers are, the team as well as the stars get equally motivated.
When the team does not have a say in deciding on the stars, the stars may get motivated, but often the team ends up demotivated, and questions arise about the fairness of the process.