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5/19/2016

GreatTeamsBuildGreatCultures

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S+B BLOGS Published:May 17, 2016


ORGANIZATIONS & PEOPLE

GreatTeamsBuild
GreatCultures
Jon Katzenbach

Peoplesometimestellme
thatTheWisdomof
Teams:Creatingthe
HighPerformance
Organization(Harvard
BusinessSchoolPress,
1993)helpedthem

Jon Katzenbach is an advisor


to executives for Strategy&,
PwCs strategy consulting
group. He is a managing
director with PwC US, based in
New York, and founder of the
Katzenbach Center,
Strategy&s global institute on
organizational culture and
leadership. His books on
organizational culture,
leadership, and teaming
include The Wisdom of Teams
(with Douglas K. Smith;
Harvard Business School
Press, 1993) and Leading
Outside the Lines: How to
Mobilize the (In)Formal
Organization, Energize Your
Team, and Get Better Results
(with Zia Khan; Jossey-Bass,
2010).

understandthe

EMAIL

acceptingofthediversity

differencebetweengreat
teamexperiencesand
terribleteam
experiences.These
readersrecognizedthe
valueofwhatmy
coauthor,DougSmith,
andIcalledarealteam
ateamcomposedof
peoplecommittedto
commonpurposes,goals,
andworkingapproaches

inothersskillsand
Reading: GREAT TEAMS BUILD GREAT CULTURES

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Reading: GREAT TEAMS BUILD


GREAT CULTURES
perspectives.Inreal

save

teams,membersholdthemselvesandtheir
teammatesmutuallyaccountable,becauseof
theiremotionalcommitmenttotheworkandto
oneanother.Thatshowtheygetthingsdone
rapidlyandeffectively.
Butalltoooften,theseteamsactasstandalone
entitieswithinalarger,moreindifferentculture,
wherepeoplefeellittleornoconnectiontoone
anotherandtothework.Thisinvariablylimits
theeffectivenessoftheteams.Indeed,ithelps
explainaresearchfindingbyStanfordUniversity
professorBehnamTabrizithat75percentof
crossfunctionalteamsaredysfunctional.They
lackclarityabouttheirgoalsandaccountability.
Theystrugglemorethanteamsthatexistwithina
particularbusinessorfunction,andtheresa
reasonforthat:Becausetheyarebroadbased,
itsfarmoredifficultforthemtodevelopthe
personalrespectthatleadsteammemberstocare
abouttheirworktogether.
Manyofusknowthecombinationofdespair,
frustration,andamusementthatpeoplecanfeel
asaresultofbeingisolatedfromaculture,while
atthesametimebeingpartofagreatteam.This
bittersweetfeelingiscaptured,forinstance,in
someclassicmodernnovels.Imthinkingof
bookssuchasCatch22byJosephHellerand
OneFlewovertheCuckoosNestbyKenKesey.
Inthesenovels,protagonistscreatetheirown
groupsofdisenfranchisedpeople,withinalarger
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culturethattriestoshutthemdown.Theyare,in
effect,realteams.Theyareemotionallyenergized
andwhollycommittedtoagoal,buttheirgoalis
typicallymeresurvivalasthedisaffected
individualsfaceoffagainstthelarger
organization.Thesetypesofbooksoftenend
semitragicallytheteamdissolves,itsmembers
scatter,andthelargerorganizationalculture
doesntchange.
Butcouldsomethingmoreproductivehappenin
areallifeorganization?Canalargecompany
gaintheemotionalcommitmentofitsemployees
throughtheirexperienceofworkinginreal
teams?Ibelievetheanswerisyes.Buttobuild
therightkindofatmosphere,teamscantjust
assumethatthesparkofmutualgoodfeelingwill
betherewhentheyneedit.Theyneedtocultivate
itintheorganizationatlarge.Ratherthan
adoptingapassiveaggressiveattitudetooppose
thecompany,astheflyersofCatch22did,or
fightingagainstit,asthehospitalizedresidentsof
CuckoosNestdid,theyneedtoseetheirteams
activityasasourceofemotionalenergyforthe
companyasawhole.

To build the right kind


of atmosphere, teams
cant just assume that
the spark of mutual

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good feeling will be


there when they need
it.
recentNewYorkTimesarticlebyCharlesDuhigg
capturedoneofthequalitiesthatcanhelpateam
fosterabetterculturearoundit.Thearticle
recountedresearch,conductedbyGoogleand
others,onthedistinguishingcapabilitiesof
teams.Researchersfoundonefundamental
indicatorofwellfunctioningteams:Their
memberswereinsyncwithoneanotherthrough
afewbehavioralteamnorms.Thesenormswere
unwrittenrulesthatdetermined,forexample,
howtoconductmeetings.(Dowetaketurns
speaking,orjumpinwhenwehaveanimportant
idea?)InourworkonWisdomofTeams,we
calledthisacommitmenttothespecificsoftheir
workingapproach.
Thespecificnormsdidntmatter.Butitmattered
thattherewereafewstronggroundrules,which
allowedpeopletofeelconfidentwithone
another.Inotherwords,theresearchersfounda
goodteamwasasafespace(asHarvard
BusinessSchoolprofessorAmyEdmondsonhas
shown),whereanyteammembercouldexpress
anideafreelyandwithoutrecrimination.Team
memberscouldtakechances,whichenabled
themtocapitalizeonopportunitiesquickly,
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innovatively,andwithgreatdetermination.In
dysfunctionalteams,ontheotherhand,members
didnotacceptothersideaspeoplewereafraidof
takingrisks,ofspeakingopenly,andofoffering
upthosefastinsightsthatmightnotbebasedin
logicbutthatareoftenvaluable.
Itturnedoutthatthepurelyfunctionalaspectsof
ateamsperformancethemembers
professionalbackgrounds,experience,drive,or
intelligence,forexamplewerenotasrelevant
tosuccessasthissafespacefacility.Moreover,
oncetheseteamswereoperatingsmoothly,they
contributedmoreeffectivelytothelargerculture
ofthecompany.
Inshort,whentheemotionalenergyofateamis
reinforcedthroughafewclearpractices,theteam
continuestodevelopitsmasteryandmutual
commitment.Teamsofthissortbuildand
sustainsourcesofemotionalenergythatripple
outintothecultureofthecompanyaroundthem.
Otherteamscanthendrawonthatemotional
energy,andthecultureitselfgrowsmoreadept,
energized,andpurposeful.
Myupcomingbook,TheCriticalFew,detailsan
approachofaneffective,testedmethodologyfor
aligningateamsemotionsandhabitswiththose
ofthelargerorganizationinthisway.Companies
canaccomplishalignmentbyfocusingona
criticalfewbehaviorsthatspreadacrossgroups,
oncetheyarerecognized.Thesecanbeindividual
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behaviorsforexample,agraciouswayof
respondingtobusinesscallersbuttheyare
mosteffectivewhentheybecometeambehaviors
thatleadtopositivebusinessresults.Leaders
may,forexample,alwaysopenameetingby
checkingintomakesureeveryoneatthe
meetingsayssomethingabouthowtheyare
feeling.Orthemembersmaysetanormwhere
problemsareraisedinteammeetings,evenif
thereisnotanobvioussolution(a
counterculturalnorminmanycompanies).
Teamsthatfindtherightkindsofpracticesand
reinforcethem,timeandagain,byinsistingon
followingthem,havegreaterinfluenceand
creativity.Simplyput,teammembersholdone
anotheraccountableforadheringtothese
behaviors.Moreover,teamslikethiscanbecome
rolemodelsforotherworkgroups.
Yourcompanyundoubtedlyhassomeofthose
practicesinplaceamongitsmosteffectiveteams.
Whenyoufindthosespecificsandtalkabout
them,andbegintopracticethemmoreexplicitly,
youprovidepositivereinforcementtothebest
aspectsofyourculture.Withinafewmonths,
thesepracticesaccelerate,influencingothersin
thecompany.Thatshowyoubuildspecifictraits
intoaculturethatnurturesitstopperforming
teams,furtheringtheemotionalenergyofboth
theteamsthemselvesandthebroader
organization.

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