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Teaming and teamwork: what makes a great team?

What makes an effective, high performing team?  Harvard Business Review devotes a special section of the April 2012 issue to a rigorous examination of this question.  But let’s start with a fascinating snippet from the March 2012 issue (Miron-Spektor, Erez, and Naveh, 2012):

Optimal Balance of Types of People on INNOVATION TEAMS

  • 50 percent (individual who have a mix of the following personality types)
  • 20-30 percent (creative type)
  • 10-20 percent (conformist type)
  • Up to 10 percent (detail-oriented type)
Characteristics of productive teams, and particularly, how they communicate are described in a fascinating study coming out of the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory (Pentland, 2012).  Researchers studied call center and hospital postoperative units, among other types of teams, to determine what makes a successful team.  They found consistent patterns regardless of the type of work done.  Patterns of communication, and especially communication outside of formal meetings, were found to be the most important predictor of team success.  Making small changes like coordinating break schedules so that employees have the opportunity to socialize away from their workstations resulted in increased efficiency.
What about situations where the traditional stable project teams are not appropriate — for which experts need to be pulled together for a short-term project?  Edmondson (2012) looks at ways for managers to create the infrastructure and delineate the work of this type of teaming.  Among the situations studied was a hospital that organized its emergency department into subsections, or pods, with designated numbers of staff of different types.
Group dynamics, and especially the interpersonal relationships that can stultify innovation, were studied by Gardner (2012).  This is another fascinating article, examining why teams that start off well can get sandwiched back into only accepted “tried and true” thinking, particularly in high stakes situations.
Sources:  Miron-Spektor, E., Erez, M., and Naveh, E.  To drive creativity, add some conformity.  Harvard Business Review;90(3):30, Mar. 2012.  Pentland, A.  The new science of building great teams.  Harvard Business Review;90(4):60-68, 70, Apr. 2012.  Edmondson, A.C.  Teamwork on the fly.  Harvard Business Review;90(4):72-80, Apr. 2012.  Gardner, H.K.  Coming through when it matters most.  Harvard Business Review;90(4):82-86, 88, 90-91, Apr. 2012.  Magazine can be accessed here: http://hbr.org/magazine  Posted by AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org
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