Research shows that smaller, stable teams that maintain the same team members outperform other configurations. These teams create the necessary foundation for a learning organization.1
✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental
Steps to first adopt this habit:
You can increase the the probability of success by paying attention to the team enabling conditions. Research shows that small stable teams have higher productivity.2
This results from more openness, transparency and trust compared to larger groups.
When teams get around 10 members they tend to subdivide. Keep the team size to 4-9 members. When possible, 4-6 members can provide more productivity than larger numbers.
Stable does not mean unchanging. The productivity tends to peak around three years then declines as the team becomes set in their ways and insular. After a while, plan to slowly change the team membership. This will introduce new ideas and fresh perspectives.
Complex systems are sensitive to initial conditions; therefore you need to pay attention to team setup and the initial start.
I propose that 60 percent of the difference in how well a team eventually performs is determined by the quality of the prework the team leader does. Thirty percent is determined by how the initial launch of the team goes. And only 10 percent is determined by what the leader does after the team is already underway with its work.—J. Richard Hackman
Create a Real Team. Real teams are bounded. Members know who is on the team, and who isn’t. Their work is interdependent. They all must succeed for any of them to succeed. The team membership is stable.
The team needs a Compelling Purpose. Their reason for existing must be clear, challenging, and consequential.
The team needs the right people comprising its membership. This includes their ability to complete the necessary tasks, the ability to work together, and complementary training and experience.
The team needs clear Agreements for conduct. While the team creates its TeamAgreements, you might want to ensure the agreements cover topics such as behavior, dealing with impediments, how to view the work, and how to improve their performance. To repeat, the team creates its agreements. Telling smart people how to behave and what to do creates resentment and is counter-productive.
Teams need Organizational Support. This includes information, the necessary technical tools, continuing education, and recognition and rewards.
Finally, teams can use competent team focused coaching. Coaching should focus on the team not individuals and improving task completion. Coaching has most impact when the team is formed and when major events such as milestones or major disruptions occur.
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See The Fifth Discipline (Senge, 1990). ↩
Collaborative Intelligence (Hackman, 2011) ↩
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