HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Teams gives the team leader a quick place to find down-to-earth articles containing much needed research into how teams operate, should be constructed and how they can be made more efficient. While I enjoyed reading the articles in the book, I was deeply interested in the first one, which I believe should catch the imagination of any technical-minded leader, “The New Science of Building Great Teams”. Starting the book of with such a well-written and researched article is certainly powerful.
Until I read this article, I wondered if there was a way to follow and track the social interactions of team members to see what skills were most important to building a good team. Pentland was able to build such a device: a wearable badge that collects data on “what tone of voice they use; whether they face one another; how much they gesture; how much they talk, listen, and interrupt; and even their levels of extroversion and empathy. By comparing data gathered from all the individuals on a team with performance data, we can identify the communication patterns that make for successful teamwork” (Pentland as cited in HBR's 10 Must Reads On teams, p.5, 2013). This research shows that face-to-face interactions are more important than emails, phone calls, voicemails or texts. While I like emails for data-trails, I would rather discuss issues and ideas in person, so I am pleased to learn how teams can be at least 8% more effective by adding more face time (2013).
Pentland’s research shows that successful teams share several defining characteristics: team members talk and listen equally, members face one another with energetic conversations and gestures, members interconnect, members carry-on side conversations, and members get information from outside the team periodically (2013). These characteristics are boiled down into three elements of communication: energy, engagement and exploration. Energy comes from the number and nature of interactions between team members with the most valuable being face-to-face exchanges (2013). Video or voice calls are next in line of importance, but the value decreases from face time. The research shows that even in our technological world, sitting down to have a conversation with the person across from you is the best interaction you can have. The engagement element comes from the “distribution of energy among the team members” (p. 7, 2013) which means that all the team members have equal and high energy as they interact. The exploration element stems from the amount of interactions team members have with individuals and teams outside of their own team (2013). I believe these three elements are easily remembered and applicable.
Pentland is able to show through data collection how a company can be very inefficient in its communication until a problem arises and then it will switch to face-to-face communication to solve the problem (2013). This shows that the problem may have been avoided if the teams would have communicated in this fashion from the start. The issue with this type of communication over email, text, social media or voicemail, is that it needs more investment. Time to schedule, plan and have such interactions are hard to accomplish at times in our fast-paced business world. However, when crucial issues arise or are expected to arise, we need to make the time to plan these meetings.
I enjoyed the diagrams of social interactions the article contained, especially the ones showing the progression of the project and the problems it caused. Knowing that the different departments of a company did not speak directly, but instead relied on electronic media, failed in their product roll-out but had to fix it with direct verbal communication is extremely powerful and important for team leaders and executives. It should be enough to make leaders change how teams are constructed and how they communicate.
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (1 April 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1422189872
- ISBN-13: 978-1422189870
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 240 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)