「華人戴明學院」是戴明哲學的學習共同體 ,致力於淵博型智識系統的研究、推廣和運用。 The purpose of this blog is to advance the ideas and ideals of W. Edwards Deming.

2012年12月19日 星期三


Teaming in the Twenty-First Century

Executive Summary:

Today's teams are not well designed for getting work done in the twenty-first century, argues Professor Amy C. Edmondson. One starting point: learn the skill of "teaming."

About Faculty in this Article:

HBS Faculty Member Amy C. Edmondson
Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School.
Even as academic journals and business sections of bookstores fill up with titles devoted to teams, teamwork, and team players, Harvard Business School Professor Amy C. Edmondson wonders if many might be barking up the wrong tree.
"I've begun to think that teams are not the solution to getting the work done," says Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management.
"Teaming is the engine of organizational learning."
The problem: Stable teams that plan first and execute later are increasingly infeasible in the twenty-first century workforce, she explains. Coordination and collaboration are essential, but they happen in fluid arrangements, rather than in static teams.
Read the Book Excerpt
In her new book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Edmondson says that surviving—and thriving—in today's economic climate requires a seismic shift in how we think about and use teamwork.
Edmondson has been studying teamwork for two decades. In that time, "we've seen fewer stable, well-designed, well-composed teams, simply because of the nature of the work, which is more uncertain and dynamic than before. As a means for getting the work done, we've got to focus on the interpersonal processes and dynamics that occur among people working together for shorter durations."
This means that people have to get good at "teaming"—reaching out, getting up to speed, establishing quickly who they are and what they bring, and trying to make progress without a blueprint. The skill set involves interpersonal awareness, skillful inquiry, and an ability to teach others what you know.
Teaming is very different from the idea of building a high-performance team to fit a known task. It is dynamic; learning and execution occur simultaneously."Teaming is the engine of organizational learning," says Edmondson.

From theory to practice

In the book, Edmondson makes the case for managers to shift from holding a static view of teamwork to this dynamic one. Real-world examples drawn from her research illustrate the concept, and she offers strategies and solutions applicable to organizations of all shapes and sizes to help them put effective teaming into practice.
Conference TableThe book synthesizes 20 years of research. And unlike many authors, Edmondson did not find writing difficult. "The hardest part was figuring out how to create a structure that worked," she says. "When I think about my research, it doesn't necessarily organize itself into a clear narrative from point A to point B."
Edmondson's career hasn't followed a clear narrative either. After earning her undergraduate degree in engineering and design from Harvard, she went to work for Buckminster Fuller. "It's what indirectly got me into this game in the first place," she explains. "I began to understand part of a larger vision of using thoughtful design to solve big problems in the world…and I became interested in how people come together and work together to innovate, to problem-solve, to do better things."
Edmondson cites her academic mentors at Harvard—J. Richard Hackman, a leading thinker in team effectiveness, and Chris Argyris, an organizational learning expert—as core influences. "This [teaming] was a blending of two different ideas: my deep interest in interpersonal dynamics that thwart learning and my growing interest in how work takes place in the team and in the team context," she says.
Understanding the impact of interpersonal dynamics is crucial. "There's a growing recognition that most of today's truly important problems related to the environment, related to smart cities, related to health care simply cannot be solved without cross-disciplinary collaboration," says Edmondson.
To illustrate, she tells the story of the execution of a CT scan, a process that took four days to unfold in one hospital, but should have taken a couple of hours. Each member of the highly trained staff involved with the scan performed his or her job well, but it was the hospital's hierarchical and siloed structure—so common in health care—that no longer worked.
The solution, according to Edmondson, is a teaming process that includes a deep recognition among individual players of the interdependency of their roles. This recognition leads naturally to early and consistent communication among formerly separate parties throughout their joint work. Once the task is completed, more communication—this time in the form of reflection and feedback—must take place.
Edmondson is careful to point out that conversations can be brief—but they need to happen. And the impetus for having those conversations must come from the top. As a leader of a siloed, specialized workforce, "your job is to see the bigger picture and create the culture whereby skills and knowledge of the workforce are expressed," she says.
"The most counterproductive thing a manager can do is to come down hard in a punitive manner on a well-intentioned failure."
"There's a growing recognition across all sectors about the importance of speaking up," Edmondson continues. "The financial crisis can be tracked back to no small degree to people's reluctance to speak up with concerns about models and products that were likely to fail." It's up to leaders, she says, to foster the climate of psychological safety required to overcome that reluctance.
But getting employees to speak up is no easy task. "The reality of hierarchical social systems is that people hold deeply ingrained, taken-for-granted beliefs that it's dangerous to speak up or disagree with those in power."
And management can be part of the problem without even knowing it.
"People in positions of relative power often inadvertently reinforce the very messages that are already deeply ingrained in our mental models," she says. Combating this takes conscious effort, including sending the message out that it is OK to fail.
"Very few people set out to fail, to make mistakes," says Edmondson. "And in a dynamic, unpredictable, and often ambiguous world, failures will happen." Managers must accept their employees' failures as well as their own. "The most counterproductive thing a manager can do is to come down hard in a punitive manner on a well-intentioned failure."
But not coming down hard doesn't mean coming down soft. "Psychological safety is not about being nice; it's not about letting people off easy and being comfortable," Edmondson stresses. "It's about the courage to be direct and holding high expectations of each other, understanding that uncertainty and risk are part of the work, as is the occasional failure." A leader's challenge is to set a climate where psychological safety, accountability, and pressure to do the best possible work exist together.
"We're in a new world, and our old management models don't fit as well as we would like," she says. "Those organizations that aren't harvesting and using the knowledge and ideas and questions of their members are not going to remain viable compared to competitors that do." In Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Edmondson provides the tools organizations need to do this.

The Importance of Teaming

Executive Summary:

Managers need to stop thinking of teams as static groups of individuals who have ample time to practice interacting successfully and efficiently, saysAmy Edmondson in her new book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. The reason: Today's corporate teams band and disband by the minute, requiring a more dynamic approach to how teams absorb knowledge. Key concepts include:
  • Previous literature has focused heavily on team design rather than on team performance.
  • Professor Edmondson introduces the idea of teaming, a verb that embraces the reality of teamwork on the fly.
  • Effective teaming requires the ability to recognize moments of potential collaboration and act upon them quickly. Managers can encourage employees to develop this ability.
  • Teaming, says Edmondson, is "the engine of organizational learning."

Editor's note: Many managers are taught to think of teams as carefully designed, static groups of individuals who, like a baseball team or improv comedy troupe, have ample time to practice interacting successfully and efficiently. The truth is, most corporate project teams don't have the temporal luxury. Teams are often disbanded before they have a chance to gel, as individual members are delegated to new projects—and therefore new teams—on a hectic as-need basis.
HBS Professor Amy Edmondson maintains that managers should think in terms of "teaming"—actively building and developing teams even as a project is in process, while realizing that a team's composition may change at any given moment. Teaming, she says, is essential to organizational learning. She elaborates on this concept in her new book, "Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy."
"Teaming calls for developing both affective (feeling) and cognitive (thinking) skills," she writes. "Enabled by distributed leadership, the purpose of teaming is to expand knowledge and expertise so that organizations and their customers can capture the value."
In the following excerpt, Edmondson describes the concept of teaming and explains its importance to today's corporate environment.
Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge EconomyIn today's complex and volatile business environment, corporations and organizations also win or lose by creating wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts. Intense competition, rampant unpredictability, and a constant need for innovation are giving rise to even greater interdependence and thus demand even greater levels of collaboration and communication than ever before. Teaming is essential to an organization's ability to respond to opportunities and to improve internal processes. This chapter aims to deepen your understanding of why teaming and the behaviors it requires are so crucial for organizational success in today's environment. To help illuminate the teaming process and its benefits, the chapter defines teaming, places it within a historical context, and presents a new framework for understanding organizational learning and process knowledge, and explains why these are important concepts for today's leaders.


Sports teams and musical groups are both bounded, static collections of individuals. Like most work teams in the past, they are physically located in the same place while practicing or performing together. Members of these teams learn how to interact. They've developed trust and know each other's roles. Advocating stable boundaries, well-designed tasks, and thoughtfully composed membership, many seminal theories of organizational effectiveness explained how to design and manage just these types of static performance teams.
"Teaming is a verb. It is a dynamic activity, not a bounded, static entity."
Harvard psychologist Richard Hackman, a preeminent scholar of team effectiveness, established the power of team structures in enabling team performance. According to this influential perspective, well-designed teams are those with clear goals, well-designed tasks that are conducive to teamwork, team members with the right skills and experiences for the task, adequate resources, and access to coaching and support. Get the design right, the theory says, and the performance will take care of itself. This model focused on the team as an entity, looking largely within the well-defined bounds of a team to explain its performance. Other research, notably conducted by MIT Professor Deborah Ancona, showed that how much a team's members interact with people outside the team boundaries was also an important factor in team performance. Both perspectives worked well in guiding the design and management of effective teams, at least in contexts where managers had the lead-time and the run-time to invest in composing stable, well-designed teams.
In these prior treatments, team is a noun. A team is an established, fixed group of people cooperating in pursuit of a common goal. But what if a team disbands almost as quickly as it was assembled? For example, what if you work in an emergency services facility where the staffing changes every shift, and the team changes completely for every case or client? What if you're a member of a temporary project team formed to solve a unique production problem? Or you're part of a group of managers with a mix of individual and shared responsibilities? How do you create synergy when you lack the advantages offered by the frequent drilling and practice sessions of static performance teams like those in sports and music?
The answer lies in teaming.
Teaming is a verb. It is a dynamic activity, not a bounded, static entity. It is largely determined by the mindset and practices of teamwork, not by the design and structures of effective teams. Teaming is teamwork on the fly. It involves coordinating and collaborating without the benefit of stable team structures, because many operations like hospitals, power plants, and military installations require a level of staffing flexibility that makes stable team composition rare. In a growing number of organizations, the constantly shifting nature of work means that many teams disband almost as soon as they've formed. You could be working on one team right now, but in a few days, or even a few minutes, you may be on another team.
Fast moving work environments need people who know how to team, people who have the skills and the flexibility to act in moments of potential collaboration when and where they appear. They must have the ability to move on, ready for the next such moments. Teaming still relies upon old-fashioned teamwork skills such as recognizing and clarifying interdependence, establishing trust, and figuring out how to coordinate. But there usually isn't time to build a foundation of familiarity through the careful sharing of personal history and prior experience, or the development of shared experiences through practice working together. Instead, people need to develop and use new capabilities for sharing crucial knowledge quickly. They must learn to ask questions clearly and frequently. They must make the small adjustments through which different skills and knowledge are woven together into timely products and services.
Why should managers care about teaming? The answer is simple. Teaming is the engine of organizational learning. By now, everyone knows that organizations need to learn how to thrive in a world of continuous change. But how organizations learn is not as well understood. As discussed later in this chapter, organizations are complex entities; many are globally distributed, most encompass multiple areas of expertise, and nearly all engage in a variety of activities. What does it mean for such a complex entity to "learn"? An organization cannot engage in a learning process in any meaningful sense—not in the way an individual can. Yet, when individuals learn, this does not always create change in the ways the organization delivers products and services to customers. This is a conundrum that has long fascinated academics.
This book offers a practical answer to the question of how organizational learning really happens: Through teaming. Products and services are provided to customers by interdependent people and processes. Crucial learning activities must take place, within those smaller, focused units of action, for organizations to improve and innovate. In spite of the ovious need for change, most large enterprises are still managed according to a powerful mindset I call organizing to execute.