On Teams:  A Blog About Team Effectiveness

You get four chances to boost team performance

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

Some teams will succeed, some will struggle, and some will fail. But if your organization relies on teams, a question you should be asking is “how can we improve the success rate of our teams?”

In our work with NASA, we've developed a framework that specifies four potential "intervention" points where research shows that actions can be taken to increase the likelihood of team success. You can consider these intervention points as four chances to boost team effectiveness.

iStock 4 Aces 000003101840XSmall

So where are the best opportunities to boost teamwork and team performance in your organization?

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Challenging, realistic, varied practice makes perfect.

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

In an attempt to become better, basketball players often stand at the free throw line during practice and take a series of shots, one after another. Free throwA study of men's college basketball players showed that under those conditions, they make an average of 69.8% of their first two free throws and 76.6% of their subsequent free throws.

But during games they typically shoot two free throws at a time, not twenty in a row. Can you guess what their average free throw percentage is during games? And what does that tell us about training teams?

A simple, powerful technique to improve communications – the “convey”

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

Communication is at the heart of teamwork, right? Recently, I observed the following.

A management team was trying to make a decision. Two team members kept stating information in support of their respective positions. They each dug deeper and deeper trenches around their positions, even repeating what they had already said to make their case. It was as if each person had made up his mind, wouldn't say anything that didn't directly support his opinion, and couldn't consider alternatives. Mega phone talk iStock 000012200353XSmall

I'm sure you've witnessed this type of communication pattern. I see it frequently, and unfortunately, a team can't make optimal decisions if they are communicating in this manner. The good news is there is a simple technique that can be used to help reduce this cycle of entrenchment. Let's call it the "convey."

Got my back? Backup behavior doesn’t happen by chance.

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

My recent 2-day business trip to Texas was unexpectedly extended due to a snow storm in the Northeast,Got my back so I needed to buy clothing. I went to a Nordstrom's because I'd experienced good service at their stores in the past. What I observed during this visit was a nice illustration of "seamless backup," a phenomenon that many high-performance teams demonstrate. So what is seamless backup and how does it happen? Read on...

Faultlines can divide your team. Be aware and be smart!

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

Imagine a six-person team. Three team members are in their early twenties and possess strong technical backgrounds. Two others are in early forties and trained as finance MBAs. Can you see a potential "faultline" in this team?

Crack in white iStock 000019390460XSmall

Researchers define a faultline as a hypothetical dividing line that splits a group into two or more subgroups. When team members identify more closely with some members of their team due to shared characteristics -- age, gender, ethnicity, education, occupation, physical location – the stage is set for the formation of subgroups.

Here's the bad news. Research shows that teams with faultlines are prone to problems. And in my experience, most teams have some potential faultlines. So, what do you need to know about faultlines and what can you do about them?