The Business Book

(Joyce) #1


Flying geese demonstrate the power
of teamwork. By flying together, each
one reduces air resistance for the ones
behind. They rotate leadership and
“talk” continuously by honking.

and every staff member. Ferguson
realized the value of positive group
norms. He was, for example, one
of the first managers to ban the
consumption of alcohol. Moreover,
alongside a host of team-building
activities—quizzes on the team
bus, for example—he demanded
ferocious loyalty. Players could
expect unfailing public support from
Ferguson and the team. Equally,
players were expected to observe a
code of media silence in regard to
teammates. Anyone breaching this
team ethic was quickly ousted.
Team management often
involves dealing with large egos
and highly talented people. Ferguson
recognized that it was folly to rein
in significant talent—players Eric
Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo
were both encouraged to express
their soccer-playing flair—but he
also transferred highly skilled
players who felt themselves to be
more important than the team.
Talent management is a source
of frustration for many executives,

because talented people often
resist being managed, and it
can be difficult to find challenges
that keep them sufficiently
motivated, while at the same
time aligned with organizational
goals. However, teams provide
an environment where talent can
thrive. By giving talented staff
teams to manage, or—although
risky—grouping talent together
in teams, it is possible to stretch
even the most gifted member of
staff. Teams provide a framework
and value system to which all
members, however skilled or
talented, must adhere.

Collective products
Businesses, like sports teams,
face performance challenges for
which teams are a powerful
solution. This is because teams
are not simply a group of people
who work together; they are judged
not by individual performance,
but by their “collective work
products.” These are the pieces
of work—which might be products,
surveys, or experiments—that
come about as a result of joint


contributions. In The Wisdom
of Teams, Jon Katzenbach and
Douglas Smith defined a team as
“a small number of people with
complementary skills who are
committed to a common purpose,
set of performance goals, and
approach, for which they hold
themselves mutually accountable.”
No individual is responsible for
success or failure, because no one
acts alone. Teamwork encourages
listening, responding constructively
to the views of others, providing
support, and recognizing the
interests, skills, and achievements
of the other team members.
Most successful teams are
formed in response to a perceived
threat or opportunity. When these
arise, the role of senior leaders is to
organize teams with clear purpose,
balanced membership, disciplined
procedures, and strong bonds,
while giving them enough
flexibility to develop their own
timing and approach. By doing so,
leaders create environments where
individuals—and therefore the
organization—are able to succeed
and flourish. ■

Teams develop direction,
momentum, and commitment
by working to shape a
meaningful purpose.
Jon R. Katzenbach
Douglas K. Smith
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