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Creating Teams

Posted on by Brandon Klein

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If you remember, Robin Dunbar describes these two groups as follows: • Five members: the number of your most intimate friends and partners (“ cliques”). Not coincidentally, five is also the number that corresponds to the limits of human short-term memory. • Fifteen is the number of people with whom we can have deep trust in the face of almost any turn of events. Dunbar calls these “sympathy groups.” The noted team scholar Dr. Meredith Belbin identifies small teams as being four to six members— the “sweet spot” of functionality along a continuum of “cultural messages” delivered by teams numbering from four to ten members. 1 Thus: • Four: “We’re well-balanced in our team and good at achieving agreement.”• Five: “One of us tends to be the odd one out.”• Six: “It takes longer to reach agreement, but we get there in the end.”• Seven: “Rather too many random contributions float about.”• Eight: “People speak freely, but no one listens.”• Nine: “We could do with someone taking control.”• Ten: “We now have a leader, but their ideas are the only ones with a chance of acceptance.” You’ll also remember, from chapter 2, that Cyril Parkinson, the inventor of the law about the growth of bureaucracies, believed that a team of eight members can never reach a consensus decision.

personally and on a daily basis. • Span of Control: Remember, at seven team members, the number of points of contact among those members has already jumped to twenty-one. By nine members, it reaches thirty-six— and it starts to go vertical from there.

As much as it sounds like the right thing to do , resist the strategy of letting the team leader select his or her own team, as those choices will almost always lack the necessary diversity needed for true team genius. The number two person in the team should also be, if possible , someone coming from a successful team. Also recruit that one person , even if he or she is not an expert in the subject at hand , for his or her transactional skills— that is, for the ability to maintain records, become the team’s memory, act as the interface among all the other members, and be the unofficial contact to the outside world. Now build out your team and prepare to fire them up.

Recount their achievements. • Remind them of the team’s beginnings, how they didn’t know each other and how close they’ve become since. • Reminisce about the high points (and the low points overcome) in the team’s history. • Most of all, recognize the work of every team member individually, both before the rest of the team and one-on-one. • Retreat at the right moment. Every leader plans the beginning of these events; smart ones plan the ending—especially the part about exiting quickly and on a high note.

To bring home the lesson of the interview data: Given a case where there is significant, presumably valuable , information about candidates for school or a job that can be obtained by looking at the folder, you are better off not interviewing candidates. If you could weight the interview as little as it deserves, that wouldn’t be true, but it’s almost impossible not to overweight it because we tend to be so unjustifiably confident that our observations give us very good information about a person’s abilities and traits.