Teams - Where's the proof?

Addition 24-May-2007
Johanna Rotham author and consultant answered an e-mail from me.
Johanna is involved in the Jerry Weinberg and Friends AYE - Amplifying Your Effectiveness - conference. Johanna's book "Behind Closed Doors" is on this blog and highly recommended for I.T. Technical Managers. Another interest of Johanna's: Hiring the Best People.

Johanna's thoughtful response:
Part of the problem is I can't do two of the same project where one is set up as an integrated team and the other is a bunch of people who don't have integrated deliverables. I can tell you that the projects where the people are set up with committed handoffs to each other (Lewis' idea that one person can't work without the rest of them), have better project throughput (more projects per time period) than the groups of people who do not have committed handoffs to each other. But that's empirical evidence, not academic research.

Here's a real request I sent to a company expert in the psychological aspects of work and teams - Team Management Systems. They are one of the few companies that bring intellectual rigour and validated research to the masses.

I'm trying to find any books, or even journal articles, that show *quantitative* results of team work... Especially anything that proves a) high-performing teams do exist and b) shows they do perform better.

Any who's every worked in a well-functioning team knows they produces a lot more & the quality is way up.

Robert E Kelley, of Carnegie Mellon, in "How to be a star at work", describes the '9 strategies of star performers' developed through an extensive study of Bell Labs Switching Systems software group.

In Appendix 1, the research story behind the book, he describes the assumption of the book, star performers, as "doing the work of 10 average coworkers"... That's all very hard to measure accurately, and the book doesn't, though order-of-magnitude differences do stand out to management.

David H Maister in "Practice What you Preach" reports an extensive, multi-country study where he comes up with a multi-factorial (quantitative) model relating company financial results to inputs - and staff attitude is a huge factor.

As an aside, he mentions that staff will happily stay in a place they like while being paid 20% less than 'outside'. It's not an invitation to pass people less, but an encouragement if you get into financial straits.

The Gallup (Poll) Organisation in "12 Elements of Great Management" is again based in strong, validated research. They quote the quantitative impact of their 12 elements on multiple other factors like accidentrates [and productivity?]. Lots of stories as well :-)

I've any number of books on my shelves on Teams - their management, formation, workings, benefits...
But none that says the simple fact: Teams are more productive than groups of individuals.

WHAT I've been searching for is anything that has a strong quantitative study of this obvious fact...

I'd like to be able to refute fools like the one who stated "Teams don't give any benefits - they are an American propaganda/fad". He was incapable of working with others, so for him this was a factual observation. He was sacked from that leadership position.

1 comment:

Johanna Rothman said...

Teams have faster throughput than individuals (assuming they work in a reasonable way). That's why we keep organizing as teams.