by Jon R. Katzenbach & Douglas K. Smith, 1993, 0-87584-367-0
Totally excellent book. These guys know what a team is and tell
you why you want them and how to make them. The book is well
structured with clear conclusions at the end of every chapter. You
could get by with reading just the conclusions. It has many real
world examples and questionaires to help guide the aspiring team
player. Teams are distinguished from work groups (discussed below).
The book must be read to get the full feel, but here are some
[p39] In one of the many phrases that had special meaning to the
team, Dave Burns summarized all this activity by describing what he
calls the "Jesuit principle" of management: "It is much easier to ask
for forgiveness than for permission."
Given the team's performance, however, they rarely had to ask for
[p50] The best teams invest a tremendous amount of time and effort
exploring, shaping, and agreeing on a purpose that belongs to them
both collectively and individually. In fact, real teams never stop
this "purposing" activity because of its value in clarifying
implications for members. With enough time and sincere attention,
one or more broad, meaningful aspirations invariably arise that
motivate teams and provide a fundamental reason for their extra
[p90] [We] find it useful to apply a simple framework we call the
"team performance curve" (see Figure II-1). On it there are five key
[p91] 1. Working group: This is a group for which there is no significant
incremental performance need or opportunity that would require it
to be a team. The members interact primarily to share information,
best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each
individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. [...]
2. Pseudo-team: This is a group for which there could be a
significant, incremental performance need or opportunity, but it has
not focused on collective performance and is not really trying
to achieveit. [...] Pseudo teams are the weakest of all groups in
terms of performance impact.[...]
3. Potential team: This is a group which there is a significant,
incremental performance need, and that reall is trying to improve
its performanceimpact. Typically, however, it requires more
clarity about purpose, goals, or work-products and more discipline in
hammering out a common working approach. It has not yet established
collective accountability. [...]
4. [p92] Real team: This is a small number of people with
complentary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose,
goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually
5. High-performance team: This is a group that meets all the
conditions of real teams, and has members who are also deeply
committed to one another's personal growth andsuccess. That
commmitment usually transcends the team. [...]
[p115] The natural instince of managers like Janacek in companies
built on individual accountability is to indentify, divide up, and
assign tasks to individuals instead of letting a group figure out a
common purpose, set of goals, and a working approach to optimize
collective skills. The latter was risky because, as JAnacek knew,
his superiors still held him individually accountable for the task
force. Nevertheless, Janacek starte to behave in ways that lessened
his control but allowed for mutual accountability to grow among his
group. According to other team members, for example, he encouraged
free-wheeling discussion while prohibiting finger pointing. "We're
looking at the process, not the people" became a common refrain. He
also started to step back and let others take charge when they could
apply a special skill or offer new insight.
[p119] Common approaches to building team performance
1. Establish urgency and direction. [...] The more urgent and
meaningful the rationale, the more likely it is that a real team will
2. [p120] Select members based on skills and skill potential, not
Far too many leaders overemphasize selection, believing that
without "just the right set of people at the start," an effective
team will not be possible. Yet, with the exception of some advanced
functional or technical skills, most people can develop needed skils
after joining a team. All of us have the capacity for personal
growth and need only be challenged in a performance-focused way.
Accordingly, instead of focusing solely on whether candidates already
have the needed skills, it can be more pertinent to ask whether the
team, including its leader, will invest the time and effort to help
potential team members grow. If the answer is no, then putting, or
keeping, such people on the team probably makes no sense.
3. [p121] Pay particular attention to first meetings and actions.
4. [p123] Set some clear rules of behavior. All real teams develop
rules of conduct to help them achieve their purpose and performance
goals. [...] Such rules promote focus, openness, commitment and
trust--all oriented toward performance. [...] However they arise,
such rules test a group's own credibility.
5. [p124] Set and seize upon a few immediate performance-oriented
tasks and goals. Most teams trace their advancement to key
performance-oriented events that forge them together. Potential
teams can set such events in motion by immediately estaablishing a
few challenging yet achievable goals that can be reached early on.
6. Challenge the group regularly with fresh facts and information.
7. [p125] Spend lots of time together.
8. [p126] Exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and
[p131] Most important, like all members of the team, team leaders
do real workthemselves. Yet, in each of these aspects, team
leaders know or discover when their own action can hinder the team,
and how their patience can energize it. Put differently, team
performance almost always depends on how well team leaders like Geyer
strike a critical balance between doing things themselves and letting
other people do them.
[p132] Simply abandoning all decision making to a potential team,
however, rarely works either; the team leader's challenge is more
difficult than that. He or she must give up decision space only when
and as much as the group is read to accept and use. Indeed, this is
the essence of the team leader's job--striking the right balance
between providing guidance and giving up control, between making
tough decisions and letting others make them, and between doing
difficult things alone and letting others learn how to do them. Just
as too much command will stifle the capability, initiative, and
creativity of the team, so will too little guidance, direction, and
[p148] In the ultimate accolade to the team leader has struck the
right balance between action and patience, one of the Zebras says of
Frangos, "So much of what we have been able to do comes from the fact
that Steve has let us be what we want to be." Fragos himself favors
a quote from the Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu to describe his view of
team leadership: "As for the best leaders, the people do not notice
their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The
next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best
leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'"
I must say that I am beginning to believe that the mark of a good
book on psychology/management must contain at least one quote from
Tao Te Ching. I've read several good books lately and they all point
to this one very slim book written 2500 years ago. Perhaps this is
related to my cognitive dissonance, but I'm not so sure...
[p150] Deal with Obstacles
[p151] We are all familiar with the frustrations associated with
stuck teams. They include:
A loss of energy or enthusiasm ("What a waste of time.")
A sense of helplessness ("There's nothing anyone can do.")
A lack of purpose or identity ("We have no clue as to what this
is all about.")
Listless, unconstructive, and one-sided discussions without
candor ("Nobody wants to talk about what's really going on.")
Meeting in which the agenda is more important than the outcome
("It's all show-and-tell for the boss.")
Cynicism and mistrust ("I knew this teamwork stuff was a load of
Interpersonal attacks made behind people's backs and to outsiders
("Dave has never pulled his own weight and never will.")
Lots of finger pointing at top management and the rest of the
organization ("If this effort's so important, why don't they give us
[p151] The good news is that potential and even pseudo-teams can get
[p152] unstuck as long as they address barriers that relate to their
specific performance challenge. In fact, teams can make no greater
mistake than to try to solve problems without relating them to
performance. [...] The parties involved [in broken interpersonal
dynamics] must identify specific actions they can take together that
will require them to "get along" in order to advance performance.
[p159] Approaches to Getting Unstuck
1. Revisit the basics. One of the primary messages of our
book is that no team can rethink its purpose, approach, and
performance goals too many times.
2. Go for small wins.
3. [p161] Inject new information and approaches.
4. Take advantage of facilitors or training.
5. [p162] Change the team's membership, including the leader.
[p168] Listen, for example, to one person we met who found himself
in the middle of an interpersonal dilemma hindering a very stuck
team: "If you're not getting along with someone, it's a lot easier to
just not do anything else about it as far as the next day is
concerned. If you don't do anything about it, it doesn't hurt so bad
today. But two months down the road you're going to be much worse
off than if you just suck it up and deal with it right up front. It's
more painful right then, but it's a lot less painful in the long run."
[p169] The good news in that being stuck--and even team
endings--can serve invaluable purposes for teams.
[p210] Real teams reflect these "to" behaviors (in Table 10-1
[below]). Conversely, teams cannot exist if their members are stuck
in the "from" patterns.
[p211] Table 10-1 Behavioral Changes Demanded by Performance in the
1990s and Beyond
Mutual support, joint accountability,
and trust-based relationships in addition to individual accountability
Dividing those who think and
decide from those who work and do
Expecting everyone to think, work, and do
Building functional excellence
through each person executing a
narrow set of tasks ever more
Encouranging people to play multiple
roles and work together interchangeably
on continuous improvement
Relying on managerial control
Getting people to buy into meaningful
purpose, to help shape direction,
and to learn
A fair day's pay for a fair
Aspiring to personal growth that expands
as well as exploits each person's
[p213] Work Group Performance May Be Enough As we indicated in
Chapter 5, working groups are neither good nor bad. As Table 11-1
shows, they are simply an approach that differs from that of a team.
While we believe the performance results of a real tema will almost
always outstrip that of a working group, working groups can and do
help their members perform well in their individual roles. OFten
this is all that total performance at the top requires.
[p214] Table 11-1 Differences between Working Group and Team
Strong, clearly focused leader
Shared leadership roles
Individual and mutual accountability
The group's purpose is the same as the broader organization mission
Specific team purpose that the team itself delivers
Runs efficient meetings
Encourages open-ended discussion and active problem-solving meetings
Measures its effectiveness
indirectly by its influence on
others (e.g., financial
performance of the business)
Measures performance directly by assessing collective work-products
Discusses, decides, and delegates
Discusses, decides, and does real work together
[p259] Epilogue: A Call to Action
The Killer Bees
In starting to write this book, we were determined to stay away
from sports examples since they dominate the subject of teams and
often present misleading analogies. But, in the end, we simply could
not resist the Killer Bees, a boys' high school basketball team from
Bridgehampton, New York. Bridgehampton is a small hamlet on the
[p260] southern shore of Long Island populated, except during the
summer, by hard-working people of relatively modest means.
Winter in Bridgehampton is high school boys' basketball. Nearly
every permanent resident and even many summer seasonals from New York
City religiously follow the Killer Bees--and for good reason. They
are an incredible team. Since 1980, they have amassed a record of
164 wins and 32 losses, qualified for the state championship playoffs
six times, won the championship twice, and finished in the final four
two other times. Not bad for a school whose total enrollment has
declined since 1985 from 67 to 41, and whose entire male student body
numbers less than 20.
[...] [The coach] never had more than 7 players, never had a star
who went on to the pros, and never had a very tall team. As a
result, Niles and his boys had to develop different sets of skills
and game plans every year. To win, the Bees had to be the ultimate
in versatility, flexibility, and speed. Their game is "team
basketball," and they are among the best at it anywhere.
[p263] A Call to Action
We have listened carefully to all logical reasos for not pursuing
team options, many of which are rational and understable if not
compelling. Yet, while we respect this reluctance, we are not
dissuaded from our basic contention: most of the objections to
pursuing the use of teams do not offest the advantages theyoffer.
The opportunity for increased performance is too great to let
misunderstanding, inexperience, uncertainty, or false assumptions--
or even past team failures--stand in the way. And the risks and
actions necessary to team performance are well within the capability
of most of us.
[p264] If you are in a position to help temas you are not a port
of, start with the pseudo-teams that plague all organizations. Do
not let them fool themselves or others any more. Stop calling them
teams, and do not let them pretend to be teams. Insist that they
make the real choice between working group and team. nothing is more
discouraging than being on a pseudo-team. And nothing is more
impressive than seeing the people on pseudo-teams as well as higher
management face up to doing something about it.
Turn next to the potential teams that matter most to performance.
Again, do not tell them to "become a team." Rather, demand
performance from them. Encourage or insist that they work on a
purpose that has real meaning to them, and on a set of performance
goals to which they will hold themselves accountable. Make sure that
their working approach builds on collective work-products that
contribute to performance goals, and set up small wins all along the
[p265] way. If necessary, "lock them in a room" until they can come out
with an agreed-on set of goals and measures. [...] Most of all, do
not get in the way when they start to get excited and even
unrealistic about what they are trying to do. Unbridled enthusiasm
is the raw motivating power forteams.