performance improvement

The final chapter of this book lists the 15 principles set out in this post

This post is on a diagnostic tool my firm created in 2005 derived from research by Warren Bennis. The table below asks this question – Is the team you lead or work with a “great group”?

Here’s how to use the diagnostic tool in this post.

  1. Read the 15 principles on what makes a “great groups”.
  2. For your team or group, select yes or no in the second column on whether your team currently matches up to each principle.
  3. Finally, in the third column list ways to improve your team.

The 15 principles are from the book Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman (Persus Books, USA, 1997). Bennis was the author of over 30 books on leadership, see his profile on Wikipedia.

The book examines six “great groups” including the creators of Disney’s animated films, Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center, and the Manhattan Project, whose scientists created the atomic bomb.

Principles for “great groups”

Your team

Action to improve your team

1.  Greatness starts with superb people

  • People who see things differently
  • Problem solvers
  • Specialised skills and broad interests
  • Tenacity

  • Yes
  • No
2.  Great groups and great leaders create each other

  • Leading decisively, but not arbitrarily
  • An atmosphere in which others can put a dent in the universe

  • Yes
  • No
3.  Every great group has a strong leader

  • A pragmatic dreamer, with an original but attainable vision
  • Leader is a good steward
  • Must be worthy of the group

  • Yes
  • No
4.  The leaders of great groups love talent and know where to find it

  • Make the place full of promise and energy
  • Drawn from the broad and diverse network of the leader

  • Yes
  • No
5.  Great groups are full of talented people who can work together

  • Does not mean each person is amiable – just tolerant
  • The task focus provides a lubricant for friction

  • Yes
  • No
6.  Great groups think they are on a mission from God

  • Believe they are doing something vital
  • Filled with believers with the zeal of converts
  • Makes hard work seem purposeful and fun

  • Yes
  • No
7.  Every great group is an island – but with a bridge to the mainland

  • Great groups become their own worlds
  • Create a culture of their own
  • Have a great deal of fun

  • Yes
  • No
8.  Great groups see themselves as winning under-dogs

  • They’re David vs Goliath
  • Apple vs Microsoft, Clinton vs Bush Snr.

  • Yes
  • No
9.  Great groups always have an enemy

  • Even if not literally, you have to make one.
  • Raises the stakes, helps the group rally and define itself
  • Win-lose competition with others, not within the group

  • Yes
  • No
10.       People in great groups have blinders on

  • The project is all they see
  • No distractions
  • Focus

  • Yes
  • No
11.       People in great groups are optimistic, not realistic

  • They believe they can do things no-one has ever done before
  • Talented people who believe they can accomplish great things
  • Simultaneously analytical and confident

  • Yes
  • No
12.       In great groups the right person has the right job

  • Let people find their own niches
  • People are not interchangeable
  • Matching people with tasks means the work will proceed with passion

  • Yes
  • No
13.       The leaders of great groups give them what they need and free them from the rest

  • People want a challenge
  • Strip the workplace of non-essentials and bureaucratic functions
  • No fancy facilities, but the right tools
  • Weekly meetings to share ideas
  • No dress codes, set hours or arbitrary regulations
  • Mechanisms to keep stress in check
  • Genuine camaraderie and a good environment for work

  • Yes
  • No
14.       Great groups ship

  • Dreams, with deadlines
  • Not just talking – making
  • Continuous focus until the work is done and delivered

  • Yes
  • No
15.       Great work has its own reward

  • Payoff is not money or glory
  • Creative process is the reward
  • Most great groups are temporary

  • Yes
  • No

Put your great group on the same page

To these 15 principles we would add that great groups share a common vision and mission and perhaps also goals and objectives. Manuals, policies, contracts and other documents in writing help to put people on the same page. Hence in our firm we regularly draft them for our clients.

New clients are often referred to us with disputes that could have been avoided if the right written material had been in place. Here are three examples.

  • An employer with no IP policy had issues with a former employee who copied intellectual property.
  • A company was in dispute with a contractor who failed to achieve implied performance requirements.
  • Three collaborators were embroiled in litigation over an invention because they failed to jointly map their venture or customise the legally binding contract between them.

The lesson we draw from these and similar cases is that it is vital for the parties to agree on the big picture and the details, both in writing on or before entering into legal relations or signing a legally binding document.

When we are consulted early, helping us provide useful people solutions for clients are our people templates and methodology. As lawyers and consultants our people solutions apply a multi-disciplinary approach and we work with specialist HR consultants. We maintain a library of templates suitable for contracting, managing and resolving issues with employees, contractors, consultants or collaborators. They align know-how from law and management consultancy. Finally, our methodology emphasises organisational objectives and human resource planning, training and performance management.

Contact us with any questions or requests.

Noric Dilanchian