Why You Cannot Build Teamwork in a Committee

The World Series reminds me that teams can take many forms. Baseball teams operate differently from football, basketball and hockey teams, but in every case, the team members are all focused on the same outcome and either they all succeed, or no one succeeds.

Most senior management ‘teams’ are not teams at all, but rather committees. Each member has his/her own agendas and goals. And they succeed or fail separately — sales may achieve their objectives, manufacturing may not.

When organizations ask me to help them build teamwork at the top, the first step is to understand whether we’re working with a committee or a team. You can improve cooperation and collaboration within a committee, but there is no overriding necessity for one group to give up resources for another.

If you want a team, here are some of the issues you need to address:

  • Are the incentives and rewards aligned so that everyone wins (or loses) together?
  • Are measures in place so that the team can determine its progress and self-correct?
  • Can the team make quick decisions about key issues?
  • Does the team represent all important operating and customer perspectives?
  • Can the team handle problems candidly and openly?

Do you have a team or a committee? Which do you really need?