Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations

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Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations

Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations

Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations

A groundbreaking book that sheds new light on the vital importance of teams as the fundamental unit of organization and competition in the global economy.Teams—we depend on them for both our professional success and our personal happiness. But isn’t it odd how little scrutiny we give them? The teams that make up our lives are created mostly by luck, happenstance, or circumstance—but rarely by design. In trivial matters—say, a bowling team, the leadership of a neighborhood group, or a holid

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The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization

The definitive classic on high-performance teams

The Wisdom of Teams is the definitive work on how to create high-performance teams in any organization. Having sold nearly a half million copies and been translated into more than fifteen languages, the authors’ clarion call that teams should be the basic unit of organization for most businesses has permanently shaped the way companies reach the highest levels of performance.

Using engaging case studies and testimonials from both s

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Robert Morris

May 11, 2016 at 7:12 am
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not all teams can accomplish something great but they can be great, July 20, 2015
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) –

This review is from: Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (Hardcover)
One of Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone’s key insights is that work [begin italics] really gets done [end italics] by informal teams rather than by standing committees or groups assigned to formal projects of finite duration. Think in terms of high-impact collaboration that is often spontaneous and improvisational rather than initiated and supervised by senior management.

This is a mindset similar to what Roger Martin characterizes (in The Opposable Mind) as “integrative” thinking. Those who engage disciplined collaboration “take their organizations to higher levels of performance…know where the opportunities for collaboration exist and when to say no to lesser projects…avoid the trap of overestimating benefits and overcollaborating…tear down the barriers that separate their employees…set powerful and unifying goals and forge a value of teamwork…cultivate T-shaped management…help employees build nimble, not bloated, networks…look within themselves and work to change their own leadership styles…And in cultivating collaboration in the right way, they set their people free to achieve great things not possible when they are divided.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Karlgaard and Malone’s coverage:

o Apple (Pages 7-15 and 119-120)
o Hewlett-Packard (22-29)
o Diversity (65-91)
o Challenges of diversity (72-74)
o Leaders (92-100)
o Interdependance (94-98)
o Pairs (101-159)
o Darrell Anderson and the Bismarck High School cross country team (105-112)
o Magic Moment pairs (111-121)
o Chained-Together- by-Success pairs (121-124)
o Yin-and-Yang pairs (131-133)
o Remember-the-Force pairs (141-145)
o Distant-Idol pairs (143-149)
o Sword-and-Shield pairs (149-155)
o Andrew Grove (150-151 and 171-174)
o San Francisco 49ers and the West Coast offense (161-165)
o Controlled Randomness (162-164)
o Frank Chance and the Chicago Cubs (175-178)
o Creating and Managing trios (178-182)
o “Two Pizza” rule (188-189)
o George Washington (210-214 and (246-249)
o All Teams Have Life Cycles (215-235)
o “The Retirement and Death of Teams (236-250)

Be sure to check out what they have to say about each of the six phases of creating, leading, and managing a “team genius” enterprise:

o Formation (Pages 218-220)
o Establishment (220-224)
o Operational (224-225)
o Cultural (93-95 and 226-228)
o Sustainable (229-230)
o Consolidation and Maturation (237-238)

I wholeheartedly agree with Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone’s concluding remarks: “The teams in which we work, and the teams we lead, may not change the world. But they can make the world a better place, make our company (and everyone who depends on it) more successful and secure, and give ourselves and our teammates a more rewarding and fulfilling career. And most of all, we can increase the odds of our team’s success. Given all of that, why shouldn’t we want to apply the latest discoveries and experiences about teams to our own lives and careers? Why wouldn’t we want to create and be part of a team of genius?”

It is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. With rare exception, everyone involved in the given enterprise nourishes and strengthens a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

Each of the aforementioned companies, therefore, can be viewed as a team of organizational genius. If the same cannot be said about your workplace culture, you need to read this book and recruit as many other people as you can to read it, also. Then get together as a team and agree on what must be done.

If you doubt that much of value can be accomplished by these efforts, consider this observation by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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Reynold Lewke

May 11, 2016 at 7:13 am
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Steve Jobs did not invent everything at Apple by himself, July 16, 2015
Reynold Lewke (Germany and California) –

This review is from: Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (Hardcover)
In Team Genius, Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone take a detailed look into the power of teams, the new science of teams, and the power of different team sizes whether two, three, four and beyond. Most importantly, they dispel the myth that clever inventions and technological innovations only come from brilliant inventors working by themselves in some lonely log cabin in the North Woods having some blinding flash of inspiration that proceeded to change the world as we know it. Particularly in Silicon Valley, over the last decade, there has grown the myth of an iconic Steve Jobs as the solo inventor everything innovative at Apple. What they reveal is that whether it was the Thomas Edison, the Lockheed Skunk Works or Apple, breakthrough technological innovation in the 20th and 21st century is more often the result of inspired teams rather than some lonely inventor toiling alone in some dark corner. They also show with a great deal of careful and detailed research that throwing more resources at a problem will not necessarily create innovation or a new product faster. You cannot make a baby in one month by employing nine women at the same time. For the data-driven, there is tremendous detailed research with enough footnotes to satisfy everyone. For those trying to understand what leadership means and how to build and use teams more effectively, there are numerous memorable stories that will help the reader create the Mind Palace to pull those examples to the fore when confronted with a situation in real life. As you read this book, you will find the penny dropping time and time again. In addition, this is a book that you can read and refer to on numerous occasions over the years and each time something new will hit you. As someone who has been in executive search for over 25 years and seen the effects of both good and poor leadership skills at the top end of both startups and large corporations, I wish more of my candidates and clients over the years would have had team genius to guide them rather than just going on gut feel. This is a book well worth taking the time to think about the implications of what the authors have so carefully constructed. This book will stimulate your gray cells and give you ideas that you can apply in the office tomorrow and for many years to come.
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May 11, 2016 at 7:13 am
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good, August 8, 2015
Autamme_dot_com (Fi) –

This review is from: Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (Hardcover)
Teamwork and team participation is often one of those things that is spoken warmly about at seminars and various briefings yet conveniently forgotten later when individualism and the me-me-me- culture comes to the fore. Maybe this book, which aims to show the vital importance of teams within companies, will finally convince the sceptical or inherently lazy.
The authors mix theoretical research and case studies to show how a functional team can be a winning team, possibly leading to the difference between success and failure and obsolescence for a company. It is more than just rearranging the assets as a one-time process. A good team might need rebalancing, incentivising and refocusing regularly and this book promises to show how to monitor performance and proactively act when necessary. Naturally, the nuts and bolts of team formation and management is covered!
This is a fairly lightweight, easy-to-read book that can really drive home the message to those of an open mind. Some of the examples given are obvious when you think about it, yet how many of us do? Take the start of the book and part of the introduction: “Teams are as old as life itself. Consider the plant kingdom. Even the most primitive life forms exhibit forms of teamwork, from individual cells combining in the complex structures of slime moulds to the unlikely partnership of fungi and green algae in lichen to the highly sophisticated symbiotic relationships found in different species of flowering plants.” So true and it can be fascinating to sometimes look at the seemingly abstract and discover it is a lot more closer and relevant than you might have first thought.
The authors warn about teams becoming too big and unwieldy. One might believe that there can be diversity and benefits from a larger team working in unison, yet it is argued that many of the most successful endeavours have been from the smallest possible team – a pair. Of course larger groupings can work, up to a point, but it can be important to get the right balance between team members and it is not just a question of measurable skills or experience.
This is one of those books that you can form an instant connection to. You just feel that the authors are operating on “your” wavelength and thus the information flows effortlessly into a receptive mind. Maybe putting it into practice is the more difficult job, but that’s outside the scope of the book and the authors’ responsibility. Nonetheless, this found a good little niche to establish itself into, providing a wealth of actionable, interesting knowledge to the reader, even though there is hardly a shortage of books promoting team working.
Between the authors and the perceptive reader, a great team can be formed…
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Richard E. Biehl

May 11, 2016 at 7:23 am
75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A strong working guide to team development and support., August 2, 1998
Richard E. Biehl (Orlando, FL USA) –

This review is from: The Wisdom of Teams (Paperback)

This book is the result of research into why teams are important, what separates effective from ineffective teams, and how organizations can tap the effectiveness of teams to become high-performance organizations. Liberally citing research efforts in 47 specific organizations, Katzenbach and Smith share their insights into what makes teams work.
They emphasize teams as an important part of a three part cycle leading to a high-performance organization: a) shareholders who provide opportunities, b) employees who deliver value, and c) customers who generate returns. The performance targets in the high-performance organization are multidimensional, impacting all three cyclic contributors. Teams provide real benefits to employees, the result being an impact throughout the cycle. If employees increase the value they deliver, customers will increase the return, allowing shareholders to increase the opportunities available to employees.
Central to the thesis is their defini! tion of team, concentrating on “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” [45] The distinction is far more than semantic. Working groups who do not share all of these characteristics are not to be considered teams. “Unlike teams, working groups rely on the sum of ‘individual bests’ for their performance. They pursue no collective work products requiring joint effort. By choosing the team path instead of the working group, people commit to take the risks of conflict, joint work-products, and collective action necessary to build a common purpose, set of goals, approach, and mutual accountability” [85]
Katzenbach and Smith aren’t completely negative toward working groups. On the contrary, they cite numerous situations in which the working group offers the most effective approach. But for turning ourselves into high-performanc! e organizations, the limitations of working groups must be ! overcome, and the power of teams must be harnessed, through increased risk. “People who call themselves teams but take no such risks are at best pseudo-teams.” [85]
THE WISDOM OF TEAMS describes a Team Performance Curve that correlates team effectiveness against the performance impact of the team, resulting in the organizational path from working group, to pseudo-team, to potential team, to real team, and ultimately to high-performance team. The working group describes the organization of least team effectiveness, although not without performance impact. The performance of working groups, in fact, can be very effective owing to the individual contributions of the group members.
The pseudo-team – high team effectiveness, but usually less performance effectiveness – “has not focused on collective performance and is not really trying to achieve it.” [91] The result is an organization that produces fewer results because of the forced team interactions. Th! e members are actually slowed down compared to the contribution they would make without the team overhead – as members of a working group. “In pseudo-teams, the sum of the whole is less than the potential of the individual parts.” [91]
The “group for which there is a significant, incremental performance need, and that really is trying to improve its performance impact” [91] is the potential team. Higher up the Performance Team Curve in terms of both team and performance effectiveness, the potential team can be extremely effective when targeted at a problem or process for which a team approach makes sense. Unfortunately, in addition to the results attributable to individuals on the team, the increased performance brought about by the potential team is largely attributable to luck. Still lacking from potential teams are the commitment to a common purpose and working approach, as well as the mutual accountability inherent in real teams.
Finally, the high-p! erformance team “is a group that meets all the conditi! ons of real teams, and has members who are also deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and success.” [92] With a little reflection, any of us who has ever experienced working on a high-performance team knows it. We also quickly recognize how rare such opportunities have been. THE WISDOM OF TEAMS is a guidebook to creating a high-performance organization built around high-performance teams.
Teams must have the right blend of complementary skills, including technical or functional expertise, problem-solving and decision making skills, and interpersonal skills. “It is surprising how many people assemble teams primarily on the basis of personal compatibility or formal position in the organization.” [48] The authors warn, however, that too much emphasis can be placed on skill mixes too early in the team process. In their research, they “did not meet a…

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Brian Prucey

May 11, 2016 at 8:15 am
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Highly detailed framework for team development, November 10, 2004
Brian Prucey (Bossier City, LA) –

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The Wisdom of Teams presents Katzenbach and Smith’s contention that real teams are the best approach to building a high-performance organization. The authors blended together their highly detailed framework for team development with examples of how several corporations successfully or unsuccessfully implemented these team principles. While acknowledging that teams may not be the best solution for every organization’s problems, the authors unashamedly insisted that businesses do themselves a disservice by not considering the team-based approach. The book’s twelve chapters are organized into three parts: Understanding Teams, Becoming a Team, and Exploiting the Potential.


Part One, Understanding Teams, introduces the reader to the authors’ thesis that teams present the best approach to creating a high-performance organization. Teams are defined as a “small group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose and set of specific performance goals” (21). Teams are not the same as work groups, committees, councils or task forces where the emphasis is on individual performance and accountability; that is, the sum of individual bests. Neither is every group that calls itself a team a true team. They may exhibit team-like characteristics or share team-like values, but those in and of themselves do not make a team. The distinguishing characteristic of teams is the synergistic effect created when individual accountability is exchange for mutual group accountability and shared group responsibility. Additionally, teams need to do real work in order be characterized as a real team. They must produce a specific work product that contributes to the organization’s mission and success. However, achieving real team status is often difficult. In order to become successful, potential teams must overcome bureaucratic inertia, managerial biases, confusion about what makes a true team, negative past experiences with pseudo teams, fear of failure, and individual resistance to shared accountability. These embody a daunting array of factors to overcome, but the authors insisted that a top-level commitment to team-based solutions could lead to building a successful team.

In Part Two, Becoming a Team, the authors used their “team performance curve” to graphically illustrate the process necessary to create winning teams. A group does not become a team when initially formed. They may be a working group committed to better coordinating individual efforts toward individual goals benefiting the company, but they produce no joint work product. While this may be the best solution to a company’s problem, the decision to become a team requires the conscious decision to assume the risk of mutual accountability and joint responsibility. If provided the right catalyst, a working group can transition to either a pseudo team or a potential team. The pseudo team fails to implement the basics of team building. They call themselves a team but are still focused on individual performance and not group results. Potential teams show an enhanced desire to formulate a group mission but have not adopted mutual accountability. They demonstrate improved team effectiveness, but their impact on the corporate problem is no greater than the working group. Real teams have a clearly defined mission for which they hold themselves mutually accountable and produce a joint work product. High performance teams are real teams that develop a deep personal commitment among the members of the team for one another’s personal growth and wellbeing. These teams are both highly effective in their team effort and produce high quality results for the organization. However, to rise to that level, team members must make the critical choice to invest themselves in the team and its mission while overcoming obstacles that threaten to cause the team to regress to one of its lesser effective counterparts. Successful teams need quality leaders who help focus the group on the mission, endorse a team-based philosophy of shared accountability, and foster a climate of courage and success.

In Part Three, the authors forcefully championed their assertion that teams are the building blocks of successful organizations. Teams, they insisted, are the best organizational tool to deliver the results necessary to build customer loyalty, shareholder value, and employee satisfaction. Provided a company has a strong performance ethic and vision-driven leadership, teams can contribute the necessary skills, energy, and performance values that drive successful businesses. The ultimate decision to incorporate functional team rests with executive leadership and its willingness to transform bloated hierarchical structures, managerial parochialism, and individual-based incentives.

Review and Reaction:

Brevity and succinctness are not the strengths of this book. Once one is able to navigate…

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Reed Moore

May 11, 2016 at 8:30 am
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars
Wisdom of Corruption, January 24, 2006

While this book presents clear theories and structural understanding of teams, the case studies are not the greatest testament to their validity. It makes one wonder how much fluff is behind the principles. This “older” book uses case studies from organizations heralded in years past, but which have now proven to be the world’s most corrupt organizations. My personal favorite: “Deal-to-Steel” (appropriately named) a case study of teams at Enron, which authors state is “an organization built on individual accountability.” These case studies of high performing organizations make one question the credibility of the research. Furthermore, the authors’ record of consulting to some of the most infamous companies known makes me wonder if you’d rather pick up a book about securing your future by Ken Lay, or sound accounting practices by Andy Fastow.

Now, the rest of the story… I did contact the publisher about the poor case studies when a group of students used the book for late night amusement and then heard presenters quote the pitiful examples before seas of laughing professionals. I thought the authors might wish to revamp case studies in future editions. The publisher agreed to contact the authors’ representative. Months later, I received a complimentary copy of a new edition–same bad case studies, new cover and a higher price. Our company’s bulk orders of the text immediately ceased. Good riddens– it was dry reading anyway.

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