Immunizing Your Team from Team Illnesses


I subscribe to Fast Company’s First Impression newsletter. Today’s edition included the following quote from Jon Katzenbach, coauthor of The Wisdom of Teams, which I have not read and has received mixed reviews on Amazon.

Teamwork is rarely the fastest way for a group with a capable leader to get where it’s going.

Included in the e-mail was a link to an article from the January 1998 issue of Fast Company titled, Team Doctors, Report to ER.

Feeling challenged by this quote, I decided to go read the article, which offer prescriptions for the five illnesses that can afflict even the best teams:

  • Collective Amnesia
  • Group Myopia
  • Leadership Phobia
  • Chronic Cantankerousness
  • Losing Life Support

The article does contain a number of salient points, such as:

  • If the team leader makes all the critical decisions, you’re not on a team – you’re on a “single-leader unit.”
  • Mutual accountability reflects the higher degree of commitment that the members of a real team demonstrate.
  • A team should never underestimate the importance of agreeing on how to be a team.

One of the fundamental principles of the MSF team model is a team of peers with clear accountability, shared responsibility and open communications. Each role is accountable for a specific share of the quality of the overall solution. It would appear that following the MSF team model can help immunize your team from most of the aforementioned illnesses.

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