The importance of teams

As I teach Scrum and Lean-Agile classes, I often meet people who don’t understand teams. Often this is true for some of the smartest and most capable people.


I think there are many answers.

One is that they have been taught the single-leader team discipline. (This is the phrase that Katzenbach and Smith use for it.)  They assume there is no real team discipline. IE, they have not been taught it.

So, what is the real team discipline? Many people have talked about it, but Katzenbach and Smith have done a good job defining it in The Wisdom of Teams.

  • Small number
  • Complementary skills
  • Common purpose, common set of specific performance goals
  • Commonly agreed work approach
  • Mutually accountable

Another, simpler way of talking about this is to say that the team is smarter than any individual.

This is a little dangerous to say. Yes, teams can be stupider than a single individual, if they let themselves. But Katzenbach and Smith show a number of cases where the team, a real team, was smarter than one individual. Not really surprising to me, since we know the old saying, two heads are better than one.

Why is this so true in our work?


  • we need innovation; generally via basic brainstorming, a small team can be more creative
  • our business domains are typically bigger than they used to be
  • our technical domains are typically more complex than they used to be
  • the speed of change (in all these areas and more) is greater

So a team is better able to keep up. If they are a real team.

Yes, the team must have some decent players who have some decent skills in their sport. Who would ever hire a Team that did not?  And, yes, if you are playing against other professional teams, you have to balance two things (and maybe more):

  • they have to pay well together as a team
  • they have to have almost as much ‘native’ skill as the team they are playing against

Teams win. More soon….

See The Wisdom of Teams here.



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