Building Your Team

Posted on August 8, 2010

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Teams are created under the premise that people have the capacity to achieve greater things as a group than as individuals. If this is not the case, a team should not be formed. We know buildings could not be built by one person, and as building industry professionals, we must team to accomplish the feat. Team building is important, but collaboration is not a euphemism for team building. How do we know we have built as solid a team as possible?

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, uses what he calls the “two pizza rule” as a benchmark for his team building.  He believes if you cannot feed your team with two pizzas, it is too big. For many reasons, a small team can be ideal, particularly for agility and manageability. In design and construction we need more than two pizzas.

The Integrated Project Delivery team is not a small cohort. In fact, it is quite inclusive. But buildings can be complicated affairs, and varied expertise is essential. Division of labor is also important.  Large teams can be difficult to manage personalities, relationships, and coordinate the work in one direction (keep collective work product on task).

Heterogeneity is important, as well as the varied viewpoints, risk tolerances and exploratory comfort zones that those differences bring. Read the posts on Dream Team Traits for some attributes you may find helpful as you build your next team.

One struggle of team building is ideal versus reality. In our heads, we have the perfect combination of chemistry of technical expertise, intelligence, critical and strategic thinking, leadership and execution experience, as well as interpersonal skills, a shared passion and singular mission. And then there is reality:  from the pool of talent otherwise unassigned, who is most effective?

Here are three important hints for successful teams I have been a part of:  1) Social strength. The team does not have to be golf buddies, but being able to, and wanting to, hang out from time to time helps chemistry, trust and performance;  2)  An overt invitation to participate from the team leader. Consensus thinking always wins the day in my book in design-related issues. A healthy team can challenge any idea and offer opinions freely, and then strong voices are smoothed out through consensus and group participation. Group design meetings, or the charrette process, are great for this; 3) Thank your members for hard work, during and after deadlines. Team leaders will generate trust and goodwill through appreciation, simple inexpensive actions individually communicated and as a group.

Entire books have been written on the construction of high-performance teams, but those are three things team builders and leaders can consider.

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