Team Shirk: Sustained dysfunction

Team building is one of the largest and fastest growing segments of management consulting but, as recent NPR story illustrates, the consequences are not always functional teams (click <Here> for the NPR audio). Trainers may promise that a workshop or two will transform a low performing team into a winner. However, the many team building “fails” suggest that it is often more difficult than that. A class discussion may focus on the factors that make teamwork difficult to achieve. Undergraduates often assume that employees naturally cooperate since they are “all on the same team.” It is quite important to help them understand what real organizations are like and why teamwork may be rare and, accordingly, a source of competitive advantage. Bob Sutton’s discussion of dysfunctional competition within Sears might help bring this to light. Of course, there are many other resources here for teamwork and strategy – while they won’t transform every dysfunctional team, they will help to highlight the issues. Of course, this discussion isn’t complete without an engineer’s description of team building:

Contributed by Russ Coff

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