The Discipline of Teams updates and extends the best-seller, The Wisdom of Teams. "The most important characteristic of teams is discipline; not bonding, togetherness, or empowerment." You are encouraged to be sure that you use teams only when they make sense as a performance unit, rather than having a single-leader approach. Using sophisticated Marine units as models, you begin to appreciate that some tasks are better suited to individuals and some tasks need to combine team and individual elements. In fact, complex tasks may require many teams focusing on subtasks. The book also looks at virtual teams and the impact of electronic communications on teams (concluding that nothing really changes -- you just have more ways to communicate and face-to-face is still important).
A team makes sense when you need to accomplish something more than what individual performances will give you. A good example comes in new product development. Each specialist can do a good job, and the project can easily be a bust. By thinking together, potential failure can become success by tweaking each perspective in new ways. The authors also point out that many times goals are set that sound like individual performance, but better goals would set directions requiring a team.
An effective team needs to have:
(1) an understandable charter
(2) communicate and coordinate effectively
(3) have clear roles and responsibilities for individuals
(4) use time-efficient processes and
(5) have a sense of accountability.
"Whenever a small group can deliver performance through the combined sum of individual contributions, then the single-leader discipline is the most effective choice."
The book provides many ways to make both teams and single-leader groups work better. In fact, it focuses on those areas that are most likely to cause problems, like poorly defined goals, keeping the size of the group as small as possible, not having the skills needed, time pressures, and using the wrong leadership discipline). I also liked the fact that the book looked at the question of when you should fold a team.
The authors clearly understand a great deal about making teams more effective, and anyone can learn from this book. I think those who liked The Wisdom of Teams will find it to be a useful refresher with some valuable new material.
The book contains many exercises and workbook questions that I happily endorse. They make the book much more practical and useful. If you just did the exercises and the workbook questions, this would be a five star book. The explanations are just icing on the cake.
After you have finished this book, I also suggest you think about whether you have set the right priorities in your organization. Realizing that you can only do a few things at once, what should they be? Be sure to give yourself a chance to pick tasks that will benefit from teams.
Find ways to make human cooperation more beneficial . . . for that's our strength!