The State of Teaming: Most are bad. Some are really, really good

Researchers examined +200k teams to see how performance is distributed. There's a LOT of poor-performing teams, and a lot more exceptional teams than expected!

Here's some awesome new scholarship on the state of teaming.

Team Performance: Nature and Antecedents of Nonnormal Distributions – by Kyle J. Bradley & Herman Aguinis, published in Organization Science September 8, 2022 (my birthday!)

This paper covers performance distributions across 200,825 teams.

Some takeaways.

🚀 The distribution in team performance isn’t normal – it looks more like a Power Law. That is, a lot of teams are bad, and a lot more teams than you would expect are very, very good. Generally speaking, this tracks with my experience. What I've observed is that most people have never worked on a high-performing team at work, and for most executives, if they've worked on one, it's a distant memory (according to this, only 21% of leadership teams are outstanding, 37% are mediocre, and 42% are poor).

So introducing the benefits of real teams to people, especially those that work at larger, more established firms without a history of this way of working, will more often than not sound preposterous or naïve. You're not wrong, and they're not either – they've just never even seen it done, let alone experienced it.

📈 Teams that are more likely to be come “star teams”:

  1. Most importantly: they stick together over a substantial period of time, and have limited turnover.
  2. Also important, but less so: they have a “star leader” – one that is exceptional both at the job the team is performing, and the teaming functions necessary to keep the team together, to help them learn, etc.

⏰ Time. It all comes back to time. I suspect there is some relationship between "star leadership" and teams' ability to stick together over time: by creating halo effects that prevent others from breaking things up; by reinforcing good behaviors within the team that hold them together over time; by giving teammates a good example of high performance that they can learn from; other things.

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