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If This Is a Team, How Come We Never Pra... > Why Teams Do Not Perform Successfull...

Why Teams Do Not Perform Successfully

In 1994 Paul Osterman, an economist at MIT, conducted a national survey of innovative work practices. He found that more than half of the companies surveyed were using teams, and that approximately 40 percent of those companies reported having more than half of the organization working in teams. The effect of teaming, if you read the literature aimed at the managerial audience, would indicate that the results are excellent: teams outperform individuals, and self-directed teams perform best of all.

But the results are really not that clear. Research on team performance shows that teams usually do not perform as well as the sum of their members’ individual efforts. It seems that there is really no empirical data that teams are more efficient. In fact, when interacting teams are compared to “nominal” groups (i.e., groups that never meet, whose output is constructed by combining the separate contributions of those who would have been team members), nominal groups actually perform better. This is illustrated by Ivan Steiner’s equation AP = PP - PL. That is, the actual productivity of a group equals its’ potential productivity (what the team is theoretically capable of, given the resources brought by the members) minus what he calls process losses, such as coordination and motivational problems (Steiner 1972).


  

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