One of the mantras of most managers is that teams outperform collective individual performance. There is lots of research that substantiates that, and in any case it is summed up in that well-known poster acronym: T.EA.M., or Together Each Achieves More. Put another way: teams produce a synergy in which the net output is not additional but geometric. Four people as a group produce 1+1+1+1= 4 units of productivity; but four people as a team can produce 1x2x3x4=24 units of productivity! The most spectacular example of this, which uses a totally different algorithm, is the domestic partnership when it’s a real team: two people create extraordinary productivity in each other.
That said, however, the reality on the ground is that team outperformance is less a belief and more
a thought; and thoughts are nowhere near strong enough to break the emotional needs of managers – the needs to control, to micro-manage, to divide and rule. In short, many managers pay lip service to teams and creating teams, butconsciously or sub-consciously sabotage the creation of them.; they end up instead with groups or departments of people, all sharing a label – the Finance department, the HR department and so on – but being nothing like a real team.
What then is a real team? What makes it different from a group? There are of course many lists of these qualities, but I think it comes down to four key elements.
First, teams have a remit or reason for being together – they have a purpose for which they exist. Second, teams accept and embrace interdependency; in other words, everyone in the team has skills and knowledge which is absolutely essential for the purpose to be achieved. Third, team members believe in the power of teams and so act accordingly; and fourthly, and finally, teams are always accountable to the whole organisation – they do not create fiefdoms and separate empires working autonomously from the main and larger mission of the whole organisation.
With this in mind, the starting point for all managers is to get a grip on whether they are genuinely creating and promoting teams, or whether they are deluding themselves with ‘team talk’, but actually sabotaging their creation.
To do this I have found five simple questions, which, because they are so objective, tend to expose reality. So answer Yes or No to these five questions:
- Do you think teamwork important in your work?
- Do you conduct training programmes to ensure your team is effective?
- Do you review the effectiveness of your team(s)?
- Have you been involved in training programmes run by your direct line manager to ensure team
- Do your line managers review the effectiveness of their team(s)?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO – what are you going to do about it? If your only YES is
to question no. 1, then you have been caught with your pants down! Think about it.