The Business Book

(Joyce) #1



ffective teams are the key
to great organizations.
This is especially true in
business, where teamwork merges
individual talent into something
greater than the sum of its parts,
enabling “common people to attain
uncommon results” in the words of
US industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Manufacturing companies in
Europe and the US began to explore
the idea of teamwork in the 1960s
and 1970s, in response to the
success of Japanese team-based
working methods such as kaizen
(staff are responsible for a company’s
continuous improvement) and
“quality circles” (groups of staff
tasked with improving quality). In
the 1980s, as many companies
adopted “total quality management”
(organization-wide quality),
teamwork began to spread beyond
its genesis in manufacturing.
Today, it would be rare to find an
organization, of any type or size,
that did not value teamwork.

The benefits of teamwork
Teamwork has been credited with
bringing about substantial
reductions in absenteeism, lower
staff turnover, significant increases

in profit, and improved job
satisfaction. In Honeywell’s
commercial flight division in
Minneapolis, for example, teamwork
was credited with achieving an
80 percent market share in flight
and navigation systems—and for
generating profits that were
200 percent higher than projections.
Teams succeed because they
provide an environment where
weaknesses can be balanced out
and individual strengths multiplied.
Teams also safeguard against
individual shortcomings, such as
underperformance and personal
agendas. Projects are more likely to
stay on track when peers support
each other and review each other’s
and the team’s work. Teams also
create an environment that most
people enjoy. The security of a group
makes each individual feel less
exposed and, in turn, more likely to
take risks, be more creative, and
therefore be better able to perform.

Storming and norming
Effective teams take time to
develop. It is rare that a group of
people can come together and
begin to perform immediately; most
teams go through a series of stages
before effectiveness is achieved.
Bruce Tuckman, a US professor of




1965 US professor Bruce
Tuckman proposes that teams
go through five stages:
forming, storming, norming,
performing, and adjourning.

1981 British management
theorist Meredith Belbin
writes Management Teams:
Why they succeed or fail,
describing nine distinct
roles that are essential to
team success.

1992 Peter Drucker describes
three kinds of team in “There’s
more than one kind of team,”
published in The Wall
Street Journal.

1993 Jon Katzenbach and
Douglas Smith write The
Wisdom of Teams, claiming
that forming a team leads to
greater success than
individual efforts.

Members of a team seek out
certain roles and they perform
most effectively in the ones
that are most natural to them.
Meredith Belbin

Meredith Belbin

Meredith Belbin was born in
Beckenham, UK, in 1926. He
earned a degree in Classics at
the University of Cambridge, and
then a doctorate in psychology,
during which he did research on
the importance of teamwork. He
then took a research fellowship
at Cranfield—where he studied
the benefits of ergonomics
(designing tools and systems
that fit best with people’s needs)
and improving efficiency in
production lines—before
becoming a management

consultant. Belbin studied
teamwork in the UK, US, and
Australia, and in 1981 wrote
Management Teams: Why they
succeed or fail, which became
one of the world’s best-selling
management books. Belbin has
advised the US government, the
European Union, companies and
public service bodies.

Key works

1981 Management Teams: Why
they succeed or fail
1993 Team Roles At Work
2000 Beyond the Team
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