• April 4, 2016

Is Teamwork Overrated?

Is Teamwork Overrated?

Is Teamwork Overrated? 698 400 Opportunity Into Revenue

Is teamwork overrated?  It is constantly cited in business media.  Seemingly every manager or executive profile contains a phrase about “team building skills.”  But it is NOT a panacea — a solution for all problems.  And in that sense, it is indeed overrated.

My conclusion was fueled by a recent “Schumpeter” column in The Economist. See the link at the bottom of this post.

Teams have never been easy to manage.  And teamwork improves with time.  It also must be based on a strong common culture.  Ask any military veteran or successful coach in a team sport.  This requirement for continuity in team membership even applies in the arts.  Effective teamwork, honed over years of collaboration, can be heard in musical ensembles.

Effective teams still need strong leaders.  As the column states, ” … the most successful teams have leaders who set an overall direction and clamp down … ”

Big teams in organizational settings are rarely effective.  Keeping the team small and focused runs counter to “inclusiveness,” but is often a critical to effectiveness.  When it comes to team size, less is indeed more.

Most importantly, is a team the best tool for the job?  Is the person who will lead the team confident that he or she can build and lead a cross-functional team?  Is there a clear set of organizational norms for how teams should function?  Is a team more effective as a “sounding board” for plans developed by individuals, rather than as the creator of a plan?

Schumpeter closes the column with a pithy conclusion:  “Even in the age of open-plan offices and social networks, some work is best left to the individual.”

I concur.  What do you think?

Economist column 03.19.16

Photo attribution: Mark Capaldini, Rialto Bridge, Venice Italy, 2012