Module 4: Agile Team Dynamics & Leadership
Teams performance can be judged along different dimensions:
Delivery of good results vs. reasonable use of resources
For example, an innovation team’s performance, that is formed to develop a new, ground-breaking product for their organization, could be judged by:
Whether the end product is indeed ground-breaking,
What resources are spent to get those results.
Often, there is a trade-off between effectiveness (delivering good results) and efficiency (reasonable use of resources).
Short term results vs. learning
Team performance could be judged by more subtle outcomes, like:
- What did members of our innovation team learn, even if they failed at delivering a ground-breaking product?
There is a lot to be learned, even from failures. Therefore, there is another potential trade-off between measurable short-term results and learning (potentially higher long-term results).
Getting along vs. delivering results
We could also look at the happiness and well-being of team members. Do they have a good time together? Do they enjoy working together? Do they get along? Just as learning and results are not necessarily related, members’ well-being is not necessarily related to their abilities to achieve good results.
We know from research that when team members are asked the question, “Do you have a good team?” their answers will tell you how they get along.
On the other hand, if the same question is being asked to the recipient of team outcomes - a senior manager or a customer – their answers will typically reflect whether the team is delivering good results or not.
Sometimes, by focusing too much on getting along, team members can undermine their ability to achieve good outcomes.
An example from research:
Two friends formed a new venture team called Sand. Trust, respect, and comradeship characterized their interactions. The problem, however, was that they never questioned one another. As was discovered over time, the two did not have the right motivation nor the skills to do the task at hand. Due to a lack of discussion and questioning each other, performance suffered. From a “getting-along” perspective, the results were fantastic. Team members’ friendship remained intact. From a financial perspective, however, results were disastrous. The venture was closed down at a major loss.
“We were so afraid of damaging our relationship, we never spoke our honest mind.”, one of the two said after this experience.
The team vs. the individual
A team’s performance can be understood at different levels: what is good for the team is not necessarily good for individual team members. This is known as the trade-off between (1) getting along and (2) getting ahead.
Individual careers are dependent on individual performance reviews. To make a career, people must cooperate, seem friendly and positive. They must be reviewed as good team players and act in a way that enables the team to get along.
To climb the corporate ladder, people must also take individual initiative. Seek responsibility. Show ambition. Be recognized for their achievements. They want to be reviewed as high performers, which enables them to get ahead in their careers.
A meta-analysis that synthesized data from over 40 studies of career performance found that both, getting along and getting ahead, matter for individual careers. Team members who also have career aspirations face a dilemma.
Should I prioritize finishing my part, or should I help a colleague achieve his?
Should I credit others or take credit myself?
Such questions are an aspect of individual careers, and they affect team performance.
Team performance can mean many different things.
Performance in one dimension can undermine performance in another dimension.
The key to effective teamwork is recognizing potential trade-offs and find a way to alleviate them.
Even though getting along can stand in the way of getting ahead, it does not necessarily do so. Even though an obsession with creating unity can undermine the production of good results – that is not necessarily the case.