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4.6 out of 5 stars15
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 6 October 2000
To skim read this book provides only a hint of the wealth of common sense it holds. I have just re-read it, fully this time and found the details it gives are so accurate in terms of distinguishing between Groups, Teams and High Performance Teams. The concepts of Purpose, Goals and Approach are fundamental to the success of Teams and are well explained. The section on whether Teams are more effecive than Groups at the senior management level is quite enlightening. I particularly liked the stories, which illustrate the concepts and bring it to life. It is however a long read at 265 pages of what is sometimes repetitive information. But the repetition may be ncessary to bring the point home.
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on 24 January 2007
What's nice about Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith's book is their willingness to name the truth. They know that everyone pays lip service to teams, but few people act like they truly value teams - and fewer still actually know how teams really work. The authors point out where the hype lies and what it is hiding. Then they go a step farther. They provide a manual for creating what executives say they want: high-performance teams. They illustrate their suggestions, insights and guidelines with a lot of stories of real-world teams, focusing on what makes them work. Their rules are so clear that they leave little room for protecting any cherished illusions. As a result, we find that those readers who are willing to act upon the book's counsel will get the most from it. If you're seriously interested in diagnosing nonperforming teams and creating ones that perform, you'll enjoy this book. And, if you think you're already doing everything right, but your team mysteriously just isn't working...this may solve the puzzle.
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Written a while ago, this best seller is one of the better quality books on teamwork.

The book is the result of research into why teams are important and what separates effective from ineffective teams.It guides organizations into how to harness and enhance the energy, that teams can contribute to become a high performance organization.The contents of this book will not date.

If you are seeking to enhance your organization design and results. Changing Structure and processes etc the authors argue is not enough. The 'best results' come when teams are built into and used as part of the change process. On page 252 they say:

'No major company we know is pursuing an energized, productive workforce without the conscious use of teams.'

The authors make a clear distinction between working groups and teams, and in which situations to use them to enhance performance. The authors point out that a working group can be effective, but demonstrate the advantage of striving to create an effective team. This is expanded on when they present the concept/model of the team performance curve.[page 85] This brings together team effectiveness and the performance impact of the team.

The section [page 119] on common approaches to building team performance is well set out and provides eight guidelines, that you can easily apply to your own situation. These are summarized to help you move a team up the team performance curve, which is dealt with in chapter five.

Another positive feature is to be found on page 196, where they pose some important questions in relation to handling major change. They go on to expand on the use of teams in this context:

'Nearly every promising major change effort appears to attack change along three critical dimensions: top down culture-shaping initiatives, bottom-up goal achievement and problem solving initiatives, and cross functional redesign and integration initiatives. Second, the leading change efforts have moved along all three dimensions simultaneously and iterively instead of sequentially. Third, and most importantly for this book, teams have played a critical role in all three dimensions.'

Chapter eight gives pragmatic guidance on 'Teams Obstacles and Endings: Getting unstuck.' This is particulary good on managing transitions and changes of direction. Dealing with these factors are often overlooked by organizations eg where implementation of a project groups work, is not thought through in terms of handover to another team or line management.

The authors comment on page 253:

'Whenever adding value depends on the real-time blending of multiple skills, experiences, and judgements, a team performance challenge exists. And teams provide an excellent [often unsurpassed] crucible for on-the-job skill development.'

For further development of this approach the field of action learning provides insight and proven techniques. See the following for a excellent coverage:

- Optimizing the power of action learning: solving problems and building leaders in real time. - By Michael J Marquadt.

The work on team roles produced by Belbin is also worth considering, and I have used it extensively.

In summary; The Wisdom of teams is a powerful guide to creating a high performance organization, built around high performance teams. In many repects nothing really original here, but a good sold framework for making teamwork work. A later book - The Discipline of Teams, takes forward the work of the authors, with more emphasis on application inside your own organization.

Some of the case studies used by the authors could be better chosen, one example is the frequent reference to the use of teams in Enron, not a great choice with hindsight! Hence four rather than five stars.

With regard to innovation and teams see:

* "Stop the innovation wars" - Harvard Business Review July/August 2010. This highlights that tensions between your innovation team and core operations, can derail your companys growth initiatives. Provides guidance on how to deal with these situations.

Stan Felstead - Interchange Resources - UK
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on 13 October 2008
I first came across this book a few years ago whilst working for Coca-Cola. I found it useful and informative then. I have recently re-read it as I now work in a different field in the Middle East, with a new set of challenges especially with respect to teams and team working.

It was great to review some of the key issues on team vs work group - and how culturally in some environments work groups are actually highly effective. This book puts it "as it is" - and is a great vehicle to both provoke debate and guide you forward
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on 27 September 2014
A Team
"A team is a small group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose and set of specific performance goals.
They are committed to working with each other to achieve the team’s purpose and hold each other fully accountable for the team’s results".
"A set of values that encourages behaviours such as listening, constructively responding to points of view expressed by others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, providing support to those who need it, and recognising the interests and achievements of others".
Source... The Wisdom of Teams , Jon R. Katzenback and Douglas K. Smith , HBS Press , 1993
Now I know the difference, this is as relevant now as when it was written in 19993. This book is a must for every accountable manager. I wish I read it in 1993.
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on 12 June 2016
This book is unashamedly pro-teamworking. This does not detract from its usefulness. It has a ring of authenticity, derived from observational study of about 50 teams in a variety of service and manufacturing industries; and it offers clarity - the points it makes are coherent and insightful. Each chapter has an interesting perspective (in contrast to many popular business books that are too often one-trick ponies). The book also includes a few sets of questions as aids to reflection and analysis. The scope of the material covered ranges from ideas that would help a small task-and-finish group up to and including perspectives gained from observing a team leading a strategic reconfiguration of a major multinational firm. The book was recommended as 'the' go-to book on teams and it did not disappoint. My one criticism would be that it is very much a product of the heyday of corporate America. For a modern-day / future-facing perspective, Laloux's 'Reinventing Organisations' develops many of the themes championed by this book.
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on 16 December 2013
This is an excellent book in describing the requirements of a high performing team. Lots of stories to bring it to life and practical explanations that can be applied in the workplace. A must for anyone learning about, leading or simply being part of a team that wants to perform more effectively.
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on 27 November 2015
Great book- makes you think about teams and the dynamics as well as providing another viewpoint.

Lots of anecdotes and examples
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on 23 August 2014
Excellent copy of a fine book, reasonably priced. Prompt delivery
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on 6 March 2015
Fast delivery - Good value for money
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