Why teams don’t work

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management

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


Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management

When you start defining too many rules. Be aware that people might start working according them!

Work-to-rule is an industrial action in which employees are entitled to do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, and precisely follow all safety or other regulations, which may cause a slowdown or decrease in productivity, as they are no longer working during breaks or during unpaid extended hours and weekends (checking email, for instance).[1][2]Such an action is considered less disruptive than a strike or lockout; and obeying the rules is less susceptible to disciplinary action. Notable examples have included nurses refusing to answer telephones, teachers refusing to work for free at night and during weekends and holidays, and police officers refusing to issue citations. Refusal to work overtime, travel on duty, or sign up to other tasks requiring employee assent are other manifestations of using work-to-rule as industrial action.

Planning method – Syntegration

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management

Very interesting work about new tool which claims to produce best possible results when working with a large group. As author states – “Highly pragmatic and innovative tool for knowledge sharing, consensus building and conflict resolution whenever a large number of people is involved: in business, in politics and in every societal body, panel or committee.” Link to original – http://www.jucs.org/jukm_0_1/stafford_beers_syntegration_as/nittbaurb.pdf

Syntegration – idea looks good although it is not crystal clear for me how exactly everything is happening when according roles people must be in several places.

Quotes from article

… control in a system can only be obtained if the variety of the controller is at least as great as the variety of the system to be controlled

Organizations of any kind face an extremely high internal and external complexity which they need to manage in order to survive in their specific competitive environment.

… by integrating the knowledge and experience of these specialists in a way that they can network into one large biological brain, the necessary variety is being assembled that is required in order to manage complex organizations in their complex environments.

…Each participant is being assigned Member in two Topic Teams, Critic in two other Topic Teams and Observer in up to four more Topic Teams.

… reverberation ensures that every thought, every new idea, is being transferred automatically to all other Topic Teams via the short term memory of the participants

… by integrating the knowledge and experience of these specialists in a way that they can network into one large biological brain, the necessary variety is being assembled that is required in order to manage complex organizations in their complex environments.

… the participants must be selected very carefully: Whom do we need for knowledge generation (the experts) and whom do we need for the implementation of the actions proposed (the “drivers”).

Work Abstract

Over some forty years, Stafford Beer (1926 – 2002) has published a steady stream of seminal books and papers in which he has applied cybernetic science to organizational problems. In all of these he has explained underlying principles and developed new theories and recorded a great variety of practical applications. In his last book, published in 1994 [Beer, 1994b] he presents a cybernetic approach to knowledge management within large groups of about 30 people, called Syntegration®. Syntegration is a structured, non-hierarchical process for highly effective and efficient dialogue that leads to much faster, much more informed outcomes and aligns people behind the resulting decisions, messages and action plans with a high chance for implementation. Since its invention this powerful method has been very successfully applied more then 200 times in the organization of normative, directional, and strategic planning, and other creative decision processes. The underlying model is a regular icosahedron. This has 30 struts, each of which represents a person. Each of the 12 edges represents a topic that is being discussed. An internal network of interactions is created by a set of iterative protocols. A group organized like this is an ultimate statement of participatory democracy, since each role is indistinguishable from any other. There is no hierarchy, no top, no bottom, no sideways. Beer illustrates how continued dynamic interaction between persons causes ideas and resolutions to hum around the sphere, which reverberates into a kind of group consciousness. Mathematical analysis of the structure shows how the process is determined by the even spread of synergy. The aim of this article is to present to managers and their advisors a new planning method that captures the native genius of the organization in a non-political and non-hierarchical way. That produces the best possible results in the shortest possible time from the largest possible number of people, by making optimized use of the knowledge these people have. Knowledge management at its best.

Answers and Questions

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management

Giving answers and suggestions is very tempting especially when you join a team temporarily as there is obvious time constraint and normally you are there for a reason. Answers can be easily misunderstood because of established behavior, knowledge and etc. answer

I prefer questions first and typically focus on a couple of areas:

  1. How do you make decisions?
  2. What are your dependencies?
  3. How do you deliver?
  4. What ?

Why these questions?

Question #1 leads to a conversation who decides what to do (business, technical), how critical situations are solved if any, what information or KPIs decisions are based on.

Question #2 leads to understanding roadblocks: technical, organizational, business, knowledge

Question #3 gives an understanding of current team’s process, how the plan, how/if collect feedback, how they deploy, ensure quality and etc.

Question #4 leads to a conversation about end users and what services/products/components are delivered to them.

How do i manage?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in management, personal improvement

What manager does? Their main focus is not on people performance and their efficiency, not about rules or KPIs. These are tools that are selected or built with your team. Instead their focus is on value creation, environment and principles. management

Want to share ideas how i manage for some reasons:

  • it might be helpful to others
  • it is extremely curious to me if my point of view is going to be different when i read it later
  • learn from others so comments and feedback are welcome

Environment. Results are very important, but we won’t be successful as a team unless each individual is fulfilled.

Style. “Ask. Understand. Change.” Process is only a tool, understanding your business is essential. Go out and talk to people. Adjust to business demand and make changes fast.

  • Humor (sometimes even rude) is a big part of the game.
  • Direct person. This is my natural behavior. I expect this from my team.

Problem solving. When a challenge is presented, bring along several solutions, one of which does not include spending (more) money. Always try to understand root cause – why, why, why,…

Meetings. Book a meeting only if it can’t be avoided. Prepare, engage invited people, come out with actions.

Professionalism. High internal standards push me to do things in a best way possible. Same is required from team members.

Learning. “Experts” can ruin everything as they are not accepting new information. If you are not changing and learning new things than something is wrong with you.

Change. Processes, tools, structure must always be adjusted to business needs

Winning. My definition of “winning” is that everyone wins: employees, customers, users.