Are We Managing Teams Wrong?


Recently we started to look at our data in a different way. We wanted to see if there was significant differences between teams that knew each other and teams of mostly strangers. The results were not what we expected. According to the data we've collected so far, teams made up of people who didn't know each other performed higher than all of the other teams we tested. Teams of strangers are succeeding twice as much as family teams and four times better than teams from the same company. This information was a surprise to us. We thought the differences in performance would be pretty much even or better for teams that knew each other.

The results deserved greater study, so we started to look at some of the reasons for strangers performing so well or rather why teams that knew each other performed so poorly. One of the things we noticed right away was that stereotyping was a problem. Members of teams that knew each other tended to function along expected roles, while strangers had no roles, therefore the stranger teams were more likely to adapt themselves to the situation. We also noticed that teams that knew each other were a lot more worried about how their teammates saw them so they were a lot less likely to promote their own ideas unless they were certain of the results.

When we dug deeper we realized that the problems with teams that knew each other in a work environment were all related to how companies manage their people. Everything that means anything to an employee like raises, promotions and company recognition are all based on individual performance. It's been that way for hundreds of years. We manage individuals and expect them to work in teams. Things that work well for managing an individual are not often the same thing that works for managing or leading a team. What's more employees look at their fellow team members as their competitors for raises and promotions.

The data leads me to believe that we are managing teams wrong. The problem is much deeper than what we originally thought.


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