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Turn a Team of Experts into an Expert Team (Part 1)

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Turn a Team of Experts into an Expert Team (Part 1)


You just put together a dream team for a major company project, Congrats! Now there is nothing stopping them from doing a killer job, right?

Well, it’s not enough to just have highly talented people working on a project, they actually have to work as a team. As managers, we often think that bringing in the best and brightest and putting them in a room together is enough to make stuff happen, but working as a team is not that simple. Organizational psychologist, Richard Hackman, describes the 3 conditions needed for an effective team in his book Leading Teams: These conditions are:

1. Being a real team,

2. Having a compelling direction,

3. Working in a supportive structure.

In this 3 part series, we will discuss each condition and what managers can do to improve them. Today we are starting with the first condition – a real team

Just calling a group of people a “team” does not mean they are actually a team. So what’s a real team?

  • Interdependent tasks: the work that needs to be done cannot be accomplished alone, and requires team members to collaborate and communicate to achieve a collective goal.

For example, a surgeon cannot perform a procedure without the assistance of nurses. Nurses prepare the tools, sterilize the room, and communicate the patient’s vitals. The doctor has to share information about the procedure and condition of the patient so that nurses can effectively assist.

  • Clear boundaries: Have you ever worked somewhere where it wasn’t clear who exactly is or isn’t on the team? Or what they even did? Ok, that’s not a real team. In a real team, roles are clearly defined, and everyone shares accountability for the teams outcome.

Think about the sales team in your organization – are they a real team? Well, if your salespeople do not rely on or collaborate with other sales professionals to make a sale, then no – they are not a real team. But, if your salespeople have to work together in order to make a sale, because each brings unique knowledge and skill that are valuable to the customer, then yes – your sales team is a real team.

  • Stability over time: teams who have worked together for awhile understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and develop norms to compensate for them

Back to our surgeons – Do you think it matters if a surgeon spendsHow much do you think the team arrangement of doctors & nurses can impact the success rate of surgeries they perform? In a 2006 study cardiac surgeons, Robert Huckman and Gary Pisano found that success rates for surgeries decreased by 40% for surgeons who split their time between multiple hospitals, compared to surgeons who worked in the same hospital. It’s not like the surgeon’s skills are any different, but their familiarity with the nurses on the team are, and can have severe consequences for patients. That deeper familiarity is a result of sharing many unique experiences, knowing each others rhythms, and developing deeper trust along the way.

Advice for Teams

As you’re thinking about teams, you should consider whether your project actually needs a team. There is a natural inclination to create project teams, but sometimes the work really only requires a talented individual to go at it alone. In fact, if a team isn’t necessary than putting a team together not only impacts the project outcome but can strain relationships between co-workers.

If your project requires people with specialized skills to work together, here are few ways to solidify them as a real team:

  1. Make sure everyone is aware of who is on the team, and what they do.
  2. Establish interdependent tasks. This could be done by assigning a task to multiple people.
  3. Be mindful of turnover and rapid changes in team composition, this could mean reducing the number of freelance contractors that come and go.

Look out for part 2 of the series, which will go over the components of a compelling vision and clear goals that propel teams forward.

And if you’re interested in talking to us about your team or learning more about Doplr, shoot us a note on our site www.doplr.ai

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