Team Building

We often take it for granted in startups that a team will “emerge” when we get the right chemical combination, as if the primordial slime will simply make the right cocktail that will solve the problem, remove the pain point, build the better mousetrap.

A better approach would be — might be — to explore what it takes to develop an effective team and ask ourselves, “Are we doing anything even remotely like this?”

Understandably, there is a lot of emphasis on product, but is there enough on team?

There is a lot of research out there that suggests certain methodologies, but I think one of the best ways to approach the issue is along the lines of how the military forms, trains, evaluates, operates, and re-constitutes combat arms units.

How the military does it

I think it essentially mirrors many of the academic methodologies. To jump ahead, I am talking about team building processes like Drexler-Sibbet. Hold that thought.

First, allow me to say that most people in the Army who are involved with this are following a prescribed training methodology. They did not develop the methodology. They are unlikely to have spent a lot of time considering it. They may not intellectually embrace it. They may not really think about it (until they become a company commander) .They just follow the methodology.

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Team Performance — The Multiplier Effect

The board of directors and the investors in a company rarely get an opportunity to see a team function as a system, as a whole. They may become familiar with certain subsets of the team when they are in contact with the leadership and the management, but they rarely see the entire team working together and rarely without the team knowing they are watching.

When I work with a CEO, I sometimes get a chance to be a voyeur and watch the team functioning without the team being aware of my presence. This opportunity provides a keen and unique insight.

Today, I had such an opportunity. In this instance, I came away bowled over by the quality of the performance.

Here is what I observed:

 1. As a complete process, the team operated at a high level of performance. They were demonstrably better than peer organizations.

 2. The team was visibly interdependent and worked with each other. Clearly, this was neither novel nor unique to this day.

 3. Looking at the individual team members, I would not have thought them remarkable, but as I watched them several things jumped out:

 a. The team, at the individual level, was sympatico and had a native desire to work together.

 b. Whoever had hired this team had done a fabulous job. I spent some time watching individual team members and across the board they were performers.

 c. The team work was neither forced nor snarky. It was genuine and natural.

So, I spoke to the manager of the unit and we had a very nice chat. I quizzed him as to his hiring practices.

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Training — Baron von Steuben Style for CEOs

Training again, Big Red Car? Really?

OK, dear reader, we will have one last crack at training for the CEO. Promise.

Today, we discuss Baron von Steuben. You know the Baron, right? Drillmaster of Valley Forge, no?

Get this book by Paul Lockhart. Great read. Been around for some time and it is a great book to inspire a CEO.

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