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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

The Secrets of Great Teamwork—Enabling in a Positive Way, Part 1

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


August 22, 2016

J. Richard Hackman (June, 2016) has researched teams for 40 years and has made a significant discovery:

What matters most to collaboration is not the personalities, attitudes, or behavioral styles of team members. Instead, what teams need to thrive are certain “enabling conditions…”

Haas and Mortensen (June, 2016), authors of The Secrets of Great Teamwork, agree with Hackman’s research and add that leaders can make great strides in collective efforts when they understand these enabling conditions and use this knowledge to influence their work.

This week we will define the first two enabling conditions: compelling direction and strong structure. Next week, we will look at the second two enabling conditions: supportive context and shared mindset.

Compelling direction: Teams need to have a goal and they need to care deeply about achieving that goal. Goals should be challenging in order to be compelling. Teams are inspired when they have an explicit picture of what they are working toward. Teams determine up front what their goal is and begin making provisions for achieving their goal.

Strong structure: Structure lives within the tasks, the processes, and the members of the team. Teams need optimally designed tasks and processes that will serve them as they set out achieve their goal. Teams should be made up of members who bring diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives. Structure retains its strength when teams regularly assess their use of group norms.

As you work with teams this week, what might be some challenging and compelling goals that prioritize the important work of your upcoming year?

How might you enable your teams in positive ways so they will achieve success?

Haas, M. & Mortensen, M. (June, 2016). Listening is an overlooked leadership tool. Harvard Business Review, May 2016.

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