Why teams don’t work

Very good article about Teams performance by J. Richard Hackman


Mistakes Managers Make

  1. Use a Team for Work That Is Better Done by Individuals
  2. Call the Performing Unit a Team but Really Manage Members as Individuals
  3. Fall Off the Authority Balance Beam
  4. Dismantle Existing Organizational Structures So That Teams Will Be Fully “Empowered”to Accomplish the Work
  5. Specify Challenging Team Objectives, but Skimp on Organizational Supports
  6. Assume That Members Already Have All the Skills They Need to Work Well as a Team

How teams are often formed:

There are two different strategies that managers use to implement work teams without upsetting the corporate applecart.

One is to try to capture the benefits of teamwork by relying mainly on rhetoric and training. Members are told that they are now in teams, team leaders are appointed, and everyone is sent off to get training in good team processes. It is easy to implement teams this way—neither organizational structures nor managers’ own behaviors need change. But such teams are more ephemeral than real, and mere changes in appearances rarely yield measurable improvements in organizational outcomes.

The second strategy is to form real teams—intact, performing units whose members share responsibility for some product or service—but to lay them atop existing organizational structures and systems. The rationale, as one manager told me, is to see how well they perform before making other organizational changes that could be hard to reverse.

This is exactly why network structure is suggested as preferred approach for complex and ambiguous tasks:

  • Teams oriented approach
  • Organizational structure must reflect value delivery, not work composition