Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Leader and the Myths of Teamwork

Recently, one of the foremost US experts on teamwork, J. Richard Hackman of Harvard passed away.  His passing drew my attention to a particular piece of research he completed in the last two years.

His research exposed 6 myths about teamwork that are especially important for leaders.  The 6 myths are:
1.  Harmony helps.
2.  New members bring energy and fresh ideas
3.  Bigger is better
4.  Face to face isn't necessary anymore because of technology
5.  It all depends on the leader
6.  Teamwork is magical.  Talented members with minimal guidance will produce amazing results.

You can find an overview at this link.

All of these myths carry important insights for the leader.  There are a couple I want to emphasize.  My 16 November blog was titled "Truth Springs From Disagreement Amongst Friends".  That particular blog entry addressed the leader's need to tolerate disagreement and to be cautious if there is none.  Dr. Hackman's research Myth #1 reinforces this point.

I also find Myth #4 important, especially for global teams.  In cost conscious, low margin businesses or in the low margin portion of a big business, there can be a tendency to move toward purely virtual teams where there is very little or no face to face contact.  While it is true technology can be leveraged to greatly speed the pace of work when teams are apart, Dr.Hackman's research and my own experiences lead to the conclusion that face to face meetings are an important component of effective virtual teams.  The key seems to be to leverage technology to find the balance.


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