(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.)
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
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At the heart of our definition of team lies our fundamental premise, namely that teams and performance are inextricably connected. We believe that the truly committed team is the most productive performance unit management has at its disposal—provided there are specific results for which the team is collectively responsible, and provided the performance ethic of the company demands those results.
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In fact, the story exemplifies the underappreciated influence a real team can have on the “extended team” around them. By their attitude and behaviors, teams like Intermodal energize and focus the efforts of others, thereby extending their performance impact beyond the direct results the team produces itself. This extended team phenomenon goes well beyond teamwork and supportiveness by clarifying and deepening the direction, motivation, values, and performance standards of the broader group. It is why we believe cultivating a few real teams is one of the best ways of upgrading the overall performance ethic of an organization.
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As has been constantly reiterated in various posts in this blog, and validated in this book by Katzenbach and Smith, a group of people become a 'team' only when they share a common goal and align or commit to a collective success. Once the set goal has been achieved, they are no longer a team till the next goal kicks in. If this new goal requires new competencies, it is possible that there may be a recomposition of the team to add the necessary competencies or remove the competencies no longer required.
A group of teams form a powerful organization, provided the organizational values, objectives, and policies, create the environment for motivation and alignment of the various teams. Creating this environment is the key responsibility of the top leadership. This would involve their ability to do the following:
* To define a clear vision and mission that is relevant, achievable, and also inspiring in terms of core human values
* To ensure that team goals are clearly aligned to the larger goals of the organization.
* To ensure that within the team every one is clear not only about their own roles, but also the goal of the team, the larger objectives of the organization, as well as each other's roles within their own teams. Everyone should also be clear about how their roles contribute to the team's goal, and how their team goal contributes to organizational objectives. This gives people a sense of mission and the awareness of how they are significant contributors to a larger and worthwhile purpose irrespective of the seeming visibility or 'glamour' of their own roles.
* To create a transparent appraisal and reward policy framework that enables and sustains instinctive team behaviour. As consistently experienced during the "CorporateTheatre" workshops and reinforced in this book, there cannot be competition within the team. Competition between teams is good enough to raise individuals beyond their comfort zones and perceived competence zones. As stated in an earlier excerpt from the book, the team should have the major say in evaluating and rewarding individual star performance.
A 'natural' team's energy and influence is not limited to the team itself. As stated in this book and experienced in the workshops, it spreads to other teams also and enhances all round performance. At the end of a production during a "CorporateTheatre" workshop it is quite common to have a team come up and share that they enhanced their own production and performances on seeing a competing team's brilliance.
Imagine the effectiveness of an organization composed of a group of 'natural' teams.