31 Slices
Medium 9781576751107

chapter 18 Trust Hell

Harvey Robbins Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

On November 2, 1999, one of those increasingly frequent events took place—a man with a pistol walked into a building and began firing.

What made this instance relevant to us is that the seven people the man shot and killed were not randomly selected; they were his work team at Xerox Corp. Within ninety seconds Byron Uesugi, an employee at Xeroxs technical services division in Honolulu, slaughtered everyone he had been meeting with for the previous 36 months.

Every year about 1,500 people are killed in workplace violence, and about 250,000 nonfatal physical attacks occur. Typically they are not random; attacks are typically peer-on-peer or against supervisors. The attackers are the ultimate dark angels, bringing bloodshed to their team instead of team spirit.

What these attacks illustrate to us is just how bleak teams can become when the fundamental element of trust is no longer there. We dont know what the dynamics of Uesugis team were, or what his complaint was. But something had to be drastically wrong, a perceived betrayal deeper and darker than a well, for Uesugi to snatch his teammates lives.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576751107

chapter 28 The Myth that Teams Work Everywhere

Harvey Robbins Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The two of us traveled to So Paulo to give a talk about teams. We flew down, gave our usual teams-are-great-but-problematic talk, and we witnessed something that disturbed us. It was something exceedingly simple that became exceedingly complicated.

We went to the Brazilian equivalent of a convenience store to get a bottle of water. The man at the canteen counter asked what type we wanted and how much we wished to spend. We explained that we wanted mineral water in the half-liter plastic bottle. He told us the cost (1.40 Reales, about $1.50) and directed us to the cashier at the end of the counter, a woman who took our money and then hand-wrote a receipt for it. We took this receipt back to the counter and waited for the man to show up again, as the cashier called him back from the back room. In a moment a third person approached, with no knowledge of us or the deal we had struck a minute earlier. After we went through the choices again, he opened a cooler door, and there we saw, for the first time, water. We handed him the receipt, and he surrendered the water.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576751107

chapter 24 The Myth that People Like Working Together

Harvey Robbins Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Say you have just been to a galvanizing seminar on teams, or read one of the excellent happy team books that abound on business bookshelves. You are excited about the potential teams have. You decide to go team with your colleagues.

You think, if we are to be a team, we must live, eat, breathe, and perform daily ablutions as a team. You tear down the cubicle walls, throw everyone in a pit together, sit back, and wait for those inevitable high-performance team results.

And wait. And wait.

You can wait till the cows come home, and high performance does not. The reason is that—surprise—people do not like being thrown into pits en masse.

We began this book with the wistful observation that most people have a real need, deep down, to work together. This is true in the aggregate. But we dont generally like being shackled to one another at the ankle. Thats not a team, its a chain gang.

People—average Americans, anyway—need their space to feel calm and safe. Spending the whole day in a playpen with teammates sounds less like a prescription for performance than a French drama of existential ennui.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576751107

chapter 25 The Myth that Teamwork Is More Productive than Individual Work

Harvey Robbins Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Teams are great. Cuisinarts are also great. But you wouldnt mow your lawn with one.

The great sin of the age of teaming is that people are so high on the idea of teaming that they are asking teams to do everything. A job done by a team is better than a job done by a single individual. You get that synergy going, you know, all that shared information yeah

The truth is that teams are inherently inferior to individuals, in terms of efficiency. If a single person has sufficient information to complete a task, he or she will run rings around a team assigned the same task. There are no handoffs to other individuals. No misunderstandings or conflicting cultures. No colliding personalities, unless the individual is a multiple personality (see Sybil Reengineering).

Beware. Teaming can be bad. Sometimes managers prefer teaming because it spreads accountability around, making blaming more difficult. Sometimes it means a bigger travel and entertainment budget. Or it means hand-picking team members.

The saddest thing we hear is We were told we had to do everything as a team. The CEO is all ga-ga about teams, so now unless you do something as a team youre a pariah in your organization. Whats sad is that we hear it a lot. Mandatory teaming is misapplied team enthusiasm. It is anencephalic teaming. It is team tyranny, and people resent it. 214

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576751107

chapter 31 Long-Term Team Health

Harvey Robbins Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

And so we draw near the end of the team journey. Weve identified all the problems, confusions, and misconceptions that have been keeping teams from performing, and taken steps to get them working the way they should. And youve kicked out the jams. Your group is a lean, mean teaming machine.

But the team journey doesnt end here. Having attained a solid groove, you need to find ways to keep the team there, and to keep the groove from deteriorating into a rut. You want your team to stay hungry and in the chase—even if it has already experienced solid success, even if it is being rewarded and recognized the way it deserves to be.

Sports clich alert: As hard as it is to win once, its tons harder to keep winning, year in and year out.

How does a team survive success? By striving to maintain the same level of attention to its own processes that it maintained while it was first achieving success. The point of reference is continuous improvement, what the Japanese call kaizen—the idea that processes can be improved infinitely.252

See All Chapters

See All Slices