#50 from R&D
Innovator Volume 2, Number 8
The authors are
partners in David Gootnick Associates, a New York-based training
firm, providing team-building workshops for many international
workshops include, "Building a Winning Scientific and
Technical Team" and "Effective Supervision of Scientists
and the Technical Staff."
In addition, they have written numerous books and articles
on human and organizational effectiveness.
Teamwork is an
unbeatable tool in many endeavors:
the natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences,
sports, business and education.
There is little doubt about the impact of high-performing
teams, with teamwork, in part, responsible for miracle drugs,
breakthrough technologies, Olympic medals, and conquests of space
teams synergistically harness their members' talents and energy,
so 1 plus 1 equals at least 3 (and often much more). In short, when a team is working well, the whole is far
greater than the sum of its parts.
It is in
recognition of these realities that scientists and engineers,
executives and educators, physicians and politicians, have praised
the concept of teamwork and proclaimed it as their personal
"style." But too often the story ends there.
Despite the fact
that real teamwork succeeds, there is abundant evidence that this
revered phenomenon is mainly a myth in our everyday lives. Most employees can quickly recall a dozen negative teamwork
stories for every positive one.
And, in almost every corporate setting—whether research
and development lab, manufacturing site, sales branch office, or
administrative center—it seems the traditional individualistic
and hierarchical cultures continue to haunt us and block the
teaming process. In
these situations, 1 plus 1 equals 1 (if you are lucky) and the
whole is less than the sum of its parts.
A new challenge
complicates the issue: the
marketplace now tells us that only "world-class"
organizations can prosper in this new global economy ... that we
must continuously improve quality and reduce our cycle times ...
that we must, in short, improve in every possible way.
Now is the time
to face the fact that only genuine, world-class teamwork can help
us successfully focus on our priorities and effectively navigate
our course from here to the future.
As we've said,
the mere statement that you belong to a group called a project
team, program team, task force, committee, quality action team or
process improvement team does not
prove that you are part of a world-class team (or any team at
all). The truth is
that the structure, processes and dynamics of most groups in
today's businesses discourage true teamwork. That's why we've developed the following assessment
You are probably
a member or leader of several permanent or temporary teams.
For each group to which you belong,
answer yes or no .
At meetings, there is plenty of talking but little
People often feel discouraged or depressed. ____
Very little concern is shown for the views or feelings of
There is little or no shared understanding of goals,
problems, actions, processes or results. ____
Members tend to confine themselves to their own jobs. ____
The boss is seen as an issuer of edicts and dispenser of
Policies, rules and regulations are used to control people
and keep them in line. ____
assignments are given arbitrarily and without consideration for
individual ability or interest. ____
People do not support each other with the necessary
resources or assistance. ____
Little or no personal or team development is provided from
inside or outside the group. ____
Group leadership is dominated by the boss. ____
The group has low cohesiveness and morale. ____
If, for any
group, you answered yes
at least four times on the Negative Team Assessment, it's likely
that this group isn’t capable
now of achieving world-class results.
But if a group lacks
negative team characteristics
on this assessment, you have the right to be proud,
especially if your perceptions are shared by others within your
world-class team status is a major accomplishment, and not one
that can be wished into existence.
Such an achievement proves that you have committed, as a
group, to look at your team structure, processes, attitudes and
behaviors, and have systematically identified and removed the
obstacles to success.
consider each group on which you serve as member or leader, then
mark yes or no:
Individuals are committed to the success of the team. ____
Trust, openness and honesty are important attributes. ____
Leadership is shared, with members assuming leadership
roles as their expertise indicates. ____
Members understand the whole system of the team and many
possess several skills needed to accomplish team goals.
Strong internal support and cooperation exist among team
The team regularly reviews its practices in pursuit of
continual improvement. ____
Flexibility allows the team to meet new challenges. ____
Members are informed about team activities, problems and
Members actively participate in meetings and share meeting
leadership roles. ____
Differences of opinion are openly discussed and worked
through to the team's satisfaction. ____
Individuals know the "right things to do" on the
team and assume initiative. ____
The team has a deep sense of pride in its accomplishments
and in membership. ____
If you checked yes
10 or more times, congratulations!
Your team is either world-class now or is quickly moving in
that direction. But
again, make certain your perceptions are shared by others in your
for the Gold" with Team Building
If you want to
meet the challenges of a global marketplace with successful
teamwork, here are five immediate steps to take:
Establish your team's mission, and get up-front commitment
of all team members to this key statement.
Decide as a team on which 5 to 10 things you all value in
working together, such as quality, customer satisfaction, rapid
response, technological superiority or full information sharing.
Then agree to encourage each other to observe these values
in your daily work.
Strive for the maximum amount of team decision-making.
Regularly search for opportunities to improve your teamwork
and the products, services or information of your team.
As a team, reach for your goals by learning the
team-building process together.
Then, all members of the team can join in driving this
critical effort and helping to assure world-class team results.
Answers on Teamwork
teams are the lifeblood of modern research.
They provide the essential ingredients and support systems
for enhancing membership focus, motivation, cooperation,
information sharing and synergistic results.
Let's look at some common questions about teamwork in
Will I sacrifice my identity and individuality by joining a
Quite the contrary! An
effective team provides you with recognition for your contribution
and leadership. It is
an exciting forum for sharing your opinions and assuming
responsibilities valued by the team.
I'm the senior executive charged with implementing total
quality in my organization. After
two years of quality training, I still don't see the results
promised when we started this venture.
Why not? We
all believe in the principles of quality and the importance of
maintaining customer focus, but something is missing.
Something important is missing—and it's probably
research proves that organizations have repeatedly launched
headlong into total quality programs, only to realize years later
that they'd skipped the first step.
Before a quality program can have a fair chance of real
success, the company must have a team culture with a supporting
such a culture, total quality training efforts tend to end up as a
series of planned scripts, buzz words and temporary programs.
I recently started the team-building process with my group
and have already seen some tremendous gains in productivity,
quality and cycle times. The
only problem is that we've started to get snide remarks from two
other groups within our organization.
You are on the
right road with clear improvements.
Stay with it. In
regard to resentment from others in your organization, our
research shows that the vast majority of teams that launch
successful team-building initiatives are shown great respect and
even emulated by other groups.
There are occasions, however, where achievement and
excellence in this vital area beget jealousy.
We suggest that your team view these snide remarks as
opportunities to approach the two groups and share with them your
process and even your accomplishments. After all, that's what teamwork is about.
You may be surprised at their appreciation.