Weekly Read Week #10


We’re getting to the tail end of this process and I’m beginning to see the end of the tunnel. The work is coming together and what initially felt like pages of random thoughts has come together into a coherent piece of work. This week I”m sharing a excerpt from right smack in the middle of the book. Truth #3 Elite teams are not like microwave ready meals. [Special Operations Forces (SOF) cannot be mass-produced.] Enjoy!

Now, I don't expect you to use my recreational basketball legacy as a building block for what you do with the team in your office (even if it does give me a chance to recognize a good friend in print).  So let's see what professional researchers have to say about the topic.  

In a group of studies helmed by Harvard Business School professor Robert S. Huckman and University of North Carolina professor Bradley Staats in 2013, the effects of familiarity between teams were analyzed in multiple workplaces. The results should not be ignored:

  • At a software services firm, a 50 percent increase in team familiarity was followed by a 19 percent decrease in product defects and a 30 percent decrease in budgetary deviations. 

  • In audit and consulting teams that were studied, high familiarity yielded a 10 percent improvement in performance as judged by clients.

In a different study, from 2006, Huckman and fellow Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano measured the success rate of two hundred cardiac surgeons from forty-three different hospitals to determine whether having star performers or an effective team led to better outcomes.  Again, I'd ask you to seriously consider the findings:

After analyzing more than 38,000 procedures, Huckman and Pisano found that the performance of individual heart specialists did improve significantly with practice and experience—but only at the hospitals where they did most of their work.  When the same surgeons left their usual teams to work at different hospitals, their success rates returned to baseline. The study suggests that working within a bonded team of colleagues helps develop interactive routines that harness the unique talents of each team member.

One more thing: The researchers concluded that elite performance is not as portable as previously thought. In reality, it is more a function of the “familiarity that a surgeon develops with the assets of a given organization.”

When do you remember being able to report to your senior-level managers that you'd found a way to decrease mistakes or defects by 20 percent, and without some sort of sleight of hand?  Or being able to report your budget with 30 percent more accuracy because of a decrease in deviations? Simply put, when teams are more familiar with each other, the likelihood that they will be able to perform in a consistent manner increases. 

Dean McKinney