“Do teams really work in business?”, asks Dr Mark de Rond

An acknowledged expert on strategy and organisation is advising that the business world might be better off avoiding teams because they are very difficult to manage successfully.

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Dr Mark de Rond

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Dr Mark de Rond

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Dr Mark de Rond has pulled together research into teams for his book ‘There is an I in Team: What Elite Athletes and Coaches Really Know About High Performance’.

In it, he poses a number of questions – why is it hard to get teams to realise their potential, how can people work more effectively on teams and why is there conflict when a team’s intentions are aligned. He looks at whether conflict is harmful or whether it helps the team dynamic.

Key business issues like these, he says, mimic many of the challenges faced by sports team, but the sports-related metaphors commonly used in business are trite and superficial, masking lessons that could be drawn from the world of high-performance athletics.

Dr de Rond explains performance should take precedence over teamwork because over-emphasising the harmonious nature of a team can have a negative impact on performance.

“The assumption that many people make is that team harmony is somehow a cause or precursor for performance. A lot of the evidence nowadays points exactly the other way.

“If you can do without a team I think you should. Teams are so difficult to manage successfully. A lot of organisations are far better off getting people to work together as a working group where everyone knows what he or she has to do.

“There’s one person who will co-ordinate and tie the different bits of rope together and take ownership of that. Everything is pretty transparent. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing.”

“We think of teams as being relatively sexy, that we should be engaged in and should promote. I’m not sure that is actually right. Ironically, since I’ve done extensive work on teams I think that if you can avoid them you should because they can be very difficult to manage well.”

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