The four disciplines of great teams
I have noticed that there are four things which good teams seem to do and which bad teams don't do. Check to see how your own team shapes up.
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1. Share information immediately if they think it might be useful to others
2. Constantly ask their internal networks for help
3. Co-invent with their full team at the right times
4. Leverage external relationships when they need to engage with their external communities
Lets look at each of these in a little bit more detail:
1. One knows - all know!
When one team member finds out something that MAY be important they make sure everyone else knows about it just in case. I call this Team Intelligence. Even if the information is not relevant to the member who obtains it they are trained to think of the big picture and pass it on. Without this a team is flying blind without any early warning system of potential problems and opportunities.
For more on this see Team Transformation Rule 2: Cultivate Team Intelligence
2. Ask the network
Good teams are not afraid to ask for help and take seriously requests for help. This means that if I personally cannot help I wont stop there. I will pass your request to my network and manage the follow through to ensure that if someone in my network can help you will know about it. This is the sign of a really good team.
For more on this see Bioteaming: A Manifesto For Networked Business Teams
3. Full Team Co-invention
There are times where the entire team needs to make input to a decision or other task - this is often referred to as The Wisdom of Crowds. There are other times where the team needs to pick the right person or subgroup for a task and just let them get on with it - this is Collective Intelligence. If a team uses the Wisdom of Crowds where it should have used Collective Intelligence or vice versa they will just get a mess. A good team knows when to use which type of team decision making.
For more on this see Collective stupidity and the madness of crowds
4. Leveraged Engagement
Good teams have both intra-team relationships (strong ties) and inter-team relationships (weak ties). These weak ties are not evenly spread but tend to reside in a few team connectors (as popularised in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point). A smart team use leveraged engagement when they need outside help - ie they use their internal connectors and their collective relationships with important external connectors to get the help they need quickly. No team can survive without the ability to call in short-order favours from friends in the wider organisation.
For more see The social networks of virtual teams
How does your team shape up?
Bioteams Books Reviews
The way a team decides to decide is one of the most important decisions it makes. In the excellent book, "Why Teams Don't Work" the authors, Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, identify seven key decision-making methods for teams.