wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Teams are...

Small groups of people working together to achieve their objectives.

Teamwork is extremely important in business (e.g. in total quality management).


How to be successful in teams



1. Common values and purpose

People must believe in the same things (e.g. hard work) and have the same objectives (e.g. customer satisfaction), so they can work effectively together.

Challenging objectives are vital – the best teams want to be the best!


2. Shared effort and responsibility

Team members must:

  • Take responsibility for results (i.e. they’re empowered in self-managing teams).
  • Accept that the team’s performance is every person’s responsibility.
  • Work as hard as possible to achieve the team’s objectives. Teams 
  • Respect, trust and help each other (seeing problems from other people’s point of view).
  • Have confidence in their ability to achieve their objectives together.
  • Be rewarded for performance (not for seniority or position).



3. Learning by doing

Successful teams believe in continuous improvement and learn from their mistakes, failures, successes and problems.




4. Complementary skillsTeams

Each person should contribute to the skills required by the team.

This is why multi-functional teams are so successful with experts from all relevant activities like marketing and production.

It’s just like a sports team having specialists in different positions.





5. Shared information

People should be open with each other and exchange information and ideas.

So they must listen, act upon good advice and reject prejudices and false assumptions.




6. Fun

The best teams enjoy working together.




7. LeadershipTeams

The team leader must inspire its members to do great things, but one individual mustn’t over-dominate.

The manager responsible for the team must give it constant feedback on how well it has performed and how it can improve.




8. Creativity

The most creative teams are passionate, knowledgeable and curious, constantly challenging each other and seeking new and better ways of doing things..

They also avoid groupthink i.e. a reluctance to accept ideas from outside the team.




9. The ability to change and innovate

The best teams accept the need to change and successfully put new ideas into action.



10. Resources

A team must have enough resources (including time, money, equipment and information).


Key quotes explained



“There may be no ‘I’ in team, but there’s a ‘me’ if you look hard enough”

- David Brent (Ricky Gervais) in the TV comedy, The Office (pictured right)

Teams and organizations don’t work so well, if people put their needs and interests first.



“A house divided against itself cannot stand”

- Jesus (Mark 3:25).

This shows the importance of common objectives within teams and organizations.

If people start to fight amongst themselves, then the house (or success in the team/organization) will crumble.




Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates”

- Earvin (‘Magic’) Johnson (American basketball star, pictured right)

Selfless devotion to others is vital in successful teams.

It’s the team effort that counts not the individual stars in it.

Another American sports superstar, the baseball player, Babe Ruth, said: “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success”.


Best books



Elton Mayo (pictured right), The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (1933)

Professor Mayo carried out the Hawthorne Experiment, a study of employees at the factory of the Western Electrical Company in Hawthorne, near Chicago, between 1927 and 1932.

Mayo found that they worked much better in teams, because people gave each other support and encouragement.

But they may also agree to work less hard, so it’s management’s responsibility to motivate them.

People highly value the respect of other team members, even at the expense of their own interests.




Meredith Belbin (pictured right) , Management Teams(1981)

Successful teams should have people who carry out these eight roles well:

  • Plant (creative, imaginative and problem solver).
  • Resource investigator (enthusiastic communicator and explorer of opportunities).
  • Co-ordinator (chairperson, delegator and clarifier of objectives).
  • Shaper (motivator, achiever and initiator of change).
  • Monitor evaluator (accurate judge, strategist and identifier of options).
  • Teamworker (co-operative listener and promoter of team spirit).
  • Implementer (efficient organizer who turns ideas into action).
  • Completer (conscientiously finishes the job well).

In a 1993 book, Belbin added a ninth role: specialist (provider of specialist knowledge and skills).




Reg Revans (pictured right) , Action Learning (1974)

People learn best from action (finding solutions to a problem) in small groups (action learning)

(see Reg Revans for more detail).




James Surowiecki (pictured right) , The Wisdom of Crowds (2004)

Decisions are best made in groups if:

  • they are effectively co-ordinated.
  • people co-operate effectively to fully exploit their knowledge, skills and learning (from constructive debate based on all relevant information and different opinions) .




Irving Janus (pictured right) , Groupthink (1982)

Groupthink is group pressure to avoid examining all of a decision's pros and cons, so making failure likely.

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