Want To Lose? Shake Up Your Team!

Change for the sake of change is an idea with profoundly negative associations for me. I don’t know where that started but it is very old. Now there is support for my view, from the Harvard Business School.

In the December 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Robert Huckman and Bradley Staats presented an article entitled, “The Hidden Benefits of Keeping Teams Intact” The article is replete with examples of how keeping work teams intact is positive and how changing hurts.

Did you know that 73% of commercial aviation incidents occur on a crew’s first day of flying together? This would be a more valuable statistic if we know what percentage of all flights had crews that were flying together for the first time, but I expect we would find that it is far fewer than 73%.

How many managers mix up the teams with the hope of sparking creativity? How many sports teams change the lineup just hoping something will be better?

Most of them in my experience.

It does not work to change for the sake of change. There are five reasons the authors specify.

  1. Coordinating activities. “Members new to one another simply don’t understand when and how to communicate.”
  2. Learning where knowledge lies. “Many teams struggle to tap the knowledge each individual brings to the task.”
  3. Responding to change. “ familiarity provides a common platform from which the group can work to meet such new demands. ”
  4. Integrating knowledge in order to innovate. “ familiarity helps team members share information and communicate effectively. ”
  5. Capturing value. “Organizations build competitive advantage when they create capabilities their competitors cannot replicate.”

These values make altering teams a decision that should be justified by more than “Let’s see what happens.”

Pareto’s Law says 80% of the result is derived from 20% of the input. Being a power law, it can be iterated to 64% for 4% and 51.2% of the results for 0.8% of the inputs.

In an earlier article I suggested that you should try to know what the 0.8% is before you change things by much. If you change, make sure you know what and why otherwise you could, by accident, quit something in the 0.8% category. It appears that teams, or working units, or pairs may be part of the 0.8%. Be cautious.

Did you know there is an orthopedic surgeon at the Henry Ford Hospital who can routinely do a knee replacement in 20 minutes. The second fastest at the same hospital averages 50 minutes. Find out why here.

Change for the sake of change is a losing tactic.

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Contact: don@moneyfyi.com  |  Follow Twitter   @DonShaughnessy

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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