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Is there any point in building teams?


On the back of the recent poor team performances from England's football and cricket teams, Simon Caulkin, writing in the Guardian this week says that the importance of teamwork often prevents rational discussion about it.

Caulkin argues that team working has yet to establish itself properly as a 'management concept'. David Butcher of the Cranfield School of Management contributes to the discussion by arguing that training which purports to 'improve teamwork' doesn't usually result in improved performance and can have the opposite effect if team workers enjoy being with eachother more than working!

According to the article, teams can only work in certain narrowly defined conditions -and even then, teamwork is hard to achieve. Culkin sites the England football team as a prime example - lacking appropriate leadership and with several players who couldn't be relied on, the team was bound to fail. The paradox is that good teams are often self-selecting - people motivated around an idea they all want to succeed. Informal structures benefit this sort of working, yet most organisations aren't prepared to acknowledge this.

A definite focus is probably far more useful than struggling to build teams, notes Butcher. 'There's much more improvement to be gained from simple things like focusing on terms of reference - what are we here for, what are we trying to achieve - than rowing across Lake Windermere on a team-constructed raft to improve personal relationships.'

The full article can be read in the Guardian's Working Lives section online.


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