Value of Teamwork – Dr. Daniel Goleman

While people in business have always helped each other and co-ordinated their efforts – the rise of work teams in large organisations puts a new premium on team skills.

The most compelling strength of teams for business is their pure economic potential. Just as individuals can add tremendous financial value, so it is with teams. The top team at a polyester fibre plant achieved an astonishing productivity advantage. Each of the top ten teams produced 30 more fiber per year – in total about 7 million pounds more – that meant an economic value added of 9.8 million.

An Analyst Lyle Spencer said there’s huge leverage from better working teams. When you look at economic value added, it’s out of all proportion to the salaries of team members. Be wary of sceptics who call team-building “touchy-feely” intangibles – the benefits are quite real. The economic advantages of a high-performance team can be vast. Even in times of adversity, a strong, self-managed team with clarity of its mission and high standards – don’t see fears and uncertainty as others do. The members put their trust in their teammates, not just in the organisation or its leaders.

In a study by the Center for Creative Leadership of top American and European executives whose careers had failed, the inability to build and lead a team was one of the most common reasons for failure.

Fortune 500 Executive said the number one challenge for leadership here is getting the heads of our units to play together, to collaborate. Tasks today are so complex, that no one person has all the skills needed to accomplish them.

The Fun element

A Manager of a software team in Silicon Valley tells Dr. Daniel Goldman, that any member of his team could take a job across town and earn an extra $20 000 pa. But they don’t why? I keep it fun!

It is vital for each team member to enjoy what they do – to fall in love with their work. Spencer concludes. Winning teams are fast, focused, friendly, forthcoming and fun.

Just 20 years ago, team skills were considered “nice to have”- In the 1990’s, team skills are defining qualities of star performers.

The Sojourner:

The world’s attention was captured for several weeks in 1997 by the spunky rover The Sojourner as it sputtered along the rock-strewn path landscape of Mars. Much like the Little Engine that Could, the excitement was compelling enough – but the realm miracle was the remarkable team effort behind getting Sojourner there at all.

The project was originally conceived by NASA as a full-scale exploration of Mars. It almost didn’t happen when Congress withdrew funding in 1992, leaving barely enough to build a tiny scaled down demo model. Project managers were faced with a project of converting what was to have been a non-working scale model into a fully operational, miniaturized version of the probe.

Anthony Spear, the Director of Pathfinder appointed Donna Shirley to appoint the team they nicknamed “Skunkworks” after the fabled Lockheed team that produced a stream of pioneering aviation prototypes from America’s first supersonic jet fighter to the Stealth bomber.

Shirley assembled a small, sleek team made efficient by doing away with the bureaucratic layers. The team shared the whole task. There were open forums where everyone no matter their rank was given an equal hearing. Though the challenge was daunting – the spirit was playful – “Dart-gun” The team had to be nimble – new challenges and surprises were constant.

As the Sojourner was being loaded onto the Pathfinder for its journey to Mars, the engineers noticed during a televised news conference, no less, that the large metal folding petals designed to protect the rover once on mars, were not shutting all the way. They were horrified. Sent the press home and frantically scrambled to find the problem and solve it. Since they had never before put the whole rover together, they had not considered the possibility that the latches would sag under the weight of all the parts.

They pulled off an engineering feat – remodeled the parts and hand-carried them from their offices in California to Cape Canaveral and replaced them – it worked!

They produced a marvel. The six wheeled rover had a surprisingly modest brain – while the best Pentium computers have more than 5 million transistors, the Rover had less than
7 000. Not only was the project a spectacular success it was also $7000 dollars under budget – the team had invented at least 25 new devices and had produced a spacecraft in a quarter of the time. As one team member said – it was like we caught fire – nothing could stop us!

From work by Dr. Daniel Goleman