I worry that I am a slow learner. After more than 30 years of business experience in the corporate trenches, as an independent consultant, a researcher, a lecturer and a business owner, I have only come to appreciate lately that the performance of any human endeavor is underpinned and regulated by the performance of the team charged with accomplishing the mission.
Surprisingly, as I have turned to research this area first-hand, I have come to realize that I am not the only slow learner in the place… the whole study area of what makes high performance teams tick is little understood by most. Here is a great statement taken from a recent Economist article that captures that sentiment well:
Deloitte reports that only 12% of the executives they contacted feel they understand the way people work together in networks and only 21% feel confident in their ability to build cross-functional teams.
This is taken from a new report by Deloitte, “Global Human Capital Trends”, based on a survey of more than 7,000 executives in over 130 countries. (Full disclosure — I haven’t read the full report yet….). As The Economist article points out:
The least that can be concluded from this research is that companies need to think harder about managing teams. They need to rid their minds of sentimental egalitarianism: the most successful teams have leaders who set an overall direction and clamp down on dithering and waffle. They need to keep teams small and focused: giving in to pressure to be more “inclusive” is a guarantee of dysfunction.
Given that pretty much everything we do these days has some component of ‘team’ in it, it seems to me to be a very important area of research and, perhaps more usefully for those organizations that count on teams, a rich area for tools, processes, and techniques for measuring and improving team effectiveness. That is the area I am most fascinated with these days — too bad it took me 30 years to figure that out….