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4 Create a Real Team

Hackman, J. Richard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If you have decided to use a team to accomplish a piece of work, then the next question is how to set it up. You will want to minimize its vulnerability to the process losses discussed in the previous chapter and, ideally, to increase the chances of positive synergy among members. Unfortunately, group process difficulties are notoriously hard to stamp out. Merely being aware of them, for example, does not mean that you can avoid them. So what is to be done?

One strategy for heading off group process problems is to structure members’ interaction in ways that minimize the chances that things will go awry. The Nominal Group Technique (NGT), for example, provides a multistep procedure that both guides and constrains group interaction. Intended for tasks that involve eliciting and prioritizing policy alternatives, the technique has been shown to significantly reduce a group’s vulnerability to the kinds of process problems that often develop for such tasks. The Delphi method goes even further— group interaction cannot compromise performance when Delphi procedures are used because members do not interact at all. Instead, they submit their personal views to a coordinator, the coordinator summarizes them and sends the results back to all participants, and that iterative process continues until convergence is achieved. And, of course, there are the numerous structured analytic techniques that have been developed for use by intelligence analysts in managing not just the cognitive processes they use in generating their inferences and assessments, but also the social dynamics of the analytic process.1

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5 Specify a Compelling Team Purpose

Hackman, J. Richard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Here are two ways a leader can get it wrong in setting a team’s purpose. Wrong Way #1: “Something is going on in that region that doesn’t seem quite right, and I’d like you all to take a look at it. Let me know what you come up with.” Wrong Way #2: “I’d like you to monitor, around the clock, all the traffic that comes across your desk about ship activities in those ports. Every morning, give me a listing of all the previous day’s movements.”

What is wrong with these two pictures? The first one is something of a projective test, an inkblot. Members have to make assumptions about what the leader is most interested in, and what they infer may or may not be aligned with what he actually had in mind. Indeed, the leader himself may not have been entirely clear about just what was needed, perhaps because he had not thought it through carefully enough beforehand. As unhelpful as this statement of purpose is, it could have been even worse. For example, the leader might have told the team to go ahead and do “whatever makes sense to promote the national interest.” That would have been an inkblot without any ink, of no use whatever to members in figuring out what they were supposed to do or how they should do it. Vague direction like that may help explain the behavior of the “rogue” intelligence teams that one sometimes reads about. For many such teams, I suspect, the problem is not that members decided on their own to head off in an unfortunate direction but instead that the team’s purpose was underspecified by the leader who assigned the team its work.

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11 Intelligence Teams in Context

Hackman, J. Richard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When intelligence teams are well structured, supported, and led, they can do very well—they accomplish their mission, they grow in capability over time, and they contribute to the personal learning and professional growth of their members. These benefits do not automatically appear, however. As has been seen throughout this book, mere exhortation to collaborate and team-building exercises intended to promote harmony and trust are insufficient to produce results. Teams have to be thoughtfully designed and supported if they are to be an effective means of engaging individuals’ resources in pursuit of collective purposes.

The bad news is that the institutional contexts within which intelligence teams operate often place serious obstacles in the paths of those who seek to properly design and support them, obstacles so daunting that more than a few leaders have decided that intelligence teams are more trouble than they are worth. The good news is that within each obstacle to teamwork also lies an opportunity for constructive change. This concluding chapter is organized as a series of assertions, things I have heard in the course of my travels around the community, each of which points simultaneously to an obstacle and an opportunity.

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Contents

Hackman, J. Richard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781605099903

9 Provide Well-Timed Team Coaching

Hackman, J. Richard Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Rhonda M., a senior intelligence analyst, has a problem with the team she is leading, and she is not sure what to do about it.1 A few weeks ago, the chief of Rhonda’s unit asked her to pull together a team to assess the possible secondary consequences of an overseas intervention that was being planned. The intervention would significantly disrupt the channels through which massive quantities of illegal drugs were being moved from the country where they were produced to the countries where they would be sold. Although it was to be carried out covertly, the intervention was certain to be noticed and eventually it probably would become known who sponsored it. The administration official who requested the assessment was especially interested in knowing how the leaders of both the country’s political opposition and the drug cartels that operated there were likely to respond to the intervention. Even a successful operation, he thought, might create problems more serious than those it would solve. Because preparations were moving forward rapidly, he needed the assessment within a month.

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