TIME Business

40% of Your Team’s Effort Is Wasted. These 4 Methods Get Results

40% of what a team does ends up as “process loss.” It’s overhead that wouldn’t exist if everything could be done by one person. Wasted effort.

Obviously, many projects require teams. But how can you create, manage or be part of a team that is more efficient?

I discussed the research behind great teams with Po Bronson, New York Times bestselling author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

Here are 4 things that can make a big difference in how effective your team is.

 

1) The Formula For A Great Team: The 60/30/10 Rule

Po Bronson:

60 percent of a team’s success is “Who’s on the team?”And 30 percent of it is how you set up your team. And 10 percent, at most, is leadership.

That 60 percent means you want stars on your team. The notion of having a team of equals doesn’t really bear out in the science. In physics, basketball, immunology… stars rub off.Having to train and compete or work with stars, raises the whole team up.

If you clarify what everybody does, you get the most out of that 30 percent. The science of teams in a business context says that pretty much the number one thing you can do to improve a team performance, is to clarify roles. Ask each member “What’s your job? How do these jobs work together? Who covers for who? How do we handle it?”

 

2) Sometimes Teams Are A Very Bad Idea

Po Bronson:

There’s this mystical idea that teams are always a solution. But unfortunately, so many teams are dysfunctional: 49 percent of software projects are delivered late, 60 percent are over-budget.

We have this idea that a team should have a lot of voices on it. And that doesn’t really work. Teams should be as small as possible to get the job done. Every person has to be able to develop a relationship with every other person on the team.

Teams do give you a positive component, but they inherently have, on average, a 40 percent process loss.That comes from all the wasted energy in emails, organizing, logistics, etc. So, you get a boost from being a team, but you also get a negative effect.

 

3) The Best Teams Are Managed… Occasionally

Po Bronson:

Today’s intrinsically motivated, self-driven knowledge worker doesn’t need to be looked after all the time. Our mutual friend Dan Pink has helped popularize an idea, a really inspired idea, which has origins in this IBM telecommuting study which showed that,telecommuters were actually more productive, not less.

On average, the most effective balance is intermittent monitoring. If you watch over someone’s shoulder all the time, they’re just going to feel like they’re being bossed around. It’s going to lower the morale and work rate.

If you totally never check in on the kids, they will, on average, at some point, start goofing off in the warehouse. But what works is intermittent monitoring. Occasionally be checking in.

 

4) Great Teams Need People Who Aren’t Team Players

Po Bronson:

For orchestras, the better they sounded during performance, the more chaos there was behind the scenes. A great opera on stage is a soap opera backstage.

So, there is curiously, an argument that in many cases, a really successful team needs at lest one person who is not a team player. Someone who’s willing to stand up to authority, to rock the boat. To not make everybody happy. To not pat everybody on the back.

Being great is full of unexpected hurdles. So, what you have to have on a team is people who are willing to say “We’re screwing up.” “You’re doing that wrong.” “We need to change.” “We have to do something different — and here’s my idea.”

More from Po on how you can improve your team here.

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Related posts:

10 Research-Backed Steps To Building A Great Team

5 reasons everything you know about teamwork is wrong

Creative Teams – What 7 elements do they all share?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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