Why Some Teams Work

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WHY SOME TEAMS WORK Teams have been so well studied and that people at so many companies have worked in teams for many years. Managers responsible for team performance often fall into one of two traps. Others think they’re empowering the team by maintaining a hands-off policy. Neither approach works. The manager’s job, writes Hackman in a study on teamwork, is to maintain an appropriate balance of authority between himself and the team. On the one hand, managers have to spell out the team’s objectives unambiguously and unapologetically. To authoritatively set a clear, engaging direction for a team, says Hackman, is to empower, not de-power, it. Team members can act as a team only if they have real responsibility—such as determining how to achieve their goals. Even with successful teams, Ruddy says, a manager needs to be involved. Even though a team may have a lot of decision-making authority, there needs to be a manager scanning the horizon to determine which direction the team should head next. Learning team skills Teams must be trained in teamwork: members often need help in skills such as listening, communicating with different kinds of people, and staying focused on the task. A better alternative: Periodic training. We used to bring [team members] into a room and take them through an intensive training, says Ruddy. But team members didn’t know what they needed to learn. Experience also shows that nothing teaches teamwork like working on teams over a period of years. Linda Savadge of the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., has served on several teams. It took a couple of years serving on different teams before the hierarchy within the team started to disappear, she says. At Xerox, members of one team realized they were so dependent on their manager that they had to take drastic action. Goals and metrics Researchers have long known that any

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