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Monday, July 31, 2006

Teamwork 1 - The Myth of Dream Teams

As promised, here is the first in a series of articles on teamwork from the June 12, 2006 issue of Fortune magazine. I have condensed it some (you can read the entire article HERE).

In what universe is it even conceivable that the United States could fail to reach the semifinals of something called the World Baseball Classic? Not only fail to win, but could field a team that included Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Johnny Damon and then lose games to Mexico, South Korea, and - wait for it -Canada? Yet it happened this year.

How could a movie starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Julia Roberts, directed by Steven Soderbergh, get tepid reviews and gross less worldwide than the star-free My Big Fat Greek Wedding? That movie was Ocean's Twelve.

And how could a FORTUNE 500 company run by a brilliant former McKinsey consultant, paying fat salaries to graduates of America's elite business schools, dissolve into fraud and bankruptcy? It happened at Enron. If someone tells you you're being recruited onto a dream team, maybe you should run. In our team-obsessed age, the concept of the dream team has become irresistible. But it's brutally clear that they often blow up. Why? Because they're not teams. They're just bunches of people.

The most important lesson about team performance is that the basic theory of the dream team is wrong. You cannot assemble a group of stars and then sit back to watch them conquer the world. You can't even count on them to avoid embarrassment. The 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team consisted entirely of NBA stars; it finished third and lost to Lithuania.

By contrast, the 1980 hockey team that beat the Soviets at the Lake Placid Olympics was built explicitly on anti-dream-team principles. Coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003, based his picks on personal chemistry. In the story's movie version, Miracle, Brooks' assistant looks at the roster and objects that many of the country's greatest college players were left out (professionals were not eligible to play then). To which Brooks responds with this essential anti-dream-team philosophy: "I'm not lookin' for the best players, Craig. I'm lookin' for the right players."

To see why dream teams so often disappoint, let's consider the most common paths to failure.

1. Signing too many all-stars.

Chemistry and culture are key. Henry Ford II successfully brought in the Whiz Kids, a pre-assembled team of U.S. Army managerial stars that included Tex Thornton, Robert McNamara, and others, when he sensed that Ford needed a revolution after World War II. Young and iconoclastic, they had a record of working together effectively, and they did well at Ford, helping it to cash in on the postwar boom. But 50 years later when CEO Jacques Nasser correctly decided that Ford (Research) needed another revolution, he stuck with the old-guard team already in place. Like most old guards, they weren't ready for a real revolution, and when push came to shove, Nasser got ejected. More seriously for Ford, the revolution didn't happen.

For a notably successful method of choosing team members, look at Worthington Industries (Research), the Ohio-based steel processor. When an employee is hired to join a plant-floor team, he works for a 90-day probationary period, after which the team votes to determine whether he can stay. The system works because much of the team's pay is based on performance, so members are clear-eyed and unsparing in evaluating a new candidate's contribution. Worthington's CEO, John McConnell, could be talking about teams at any level when he says, "Give us people who are dedicated to making the team work, as opposed to a bunch of talented people with big egos, and we'll win every time."

2. Failing to build a culture of trust.

Trust is the most fundamental element of a winning team. If people think their teammates are lying, withholding information, plotting to knife them, or just incompetent, nothing valuable will get done. The team doesn't create synergy. It creates "dysergy" - two plus two equals three, with luck.

In fact, trust is so fragile and so laboriously created that it may never extend very far in a top-level team. "Building a really high-performing executive team at the highest level is a mirage," says a management consultant who doesn't want to be quoted because this particular message is a downer. "When such teams do exist, they'll consist mostly of two people, maybe three." It's just too hard to build trust more extensively at the top level, where everyone is supposedly a star.

3. Tolerating competing agendas.

The challenge is to keep the inevitable personal agendas from becoming destructive. That's part of the leader's job. For example, Ameritech in the '90s had an all-star team of top executives that included Richard Notebaert, future CEO of Ameritech, Tellabs, and Qwest, and Richard Brown, future CEO of Cable & Wireless and EDS. Michigan business school professor Noel Tichy, who was advising the company on leadership development at the time, recalls that CEO Bill Weiss told the team bluntly every week that if he caught anybody trying to undermine the others, the guilty party would be fired. It worked.

4. Letting conflicts fester.

Col. Stas Preczewski, coach of the Army crew at West Point a few years ago, faced a baffling problem. Through extensive testing, he had developed objective criteria to rank his rowers. He then put the eight best - his dream team - in the varsity boat and the eight others in the junior varsity boat. The problem: The JV beat the varsity two-thirds of the time. The situation, as explained in a Harvard Business School case, was that the varsity was full of resentment over who was contributing most, while the JV, feeling they had nothing to lose, supported one another happily.

One day Preczewski lined up the varsity crew in four pairs. He told them they were to wrestle - no punching - for 90 seconds. There were no clear winners: Each man was discovering that his opponent was just as strong and determined as he was. Preczewski then had them change opponents and wrestle again. By the third round they were choosing their own opponents - "One guy would point at another and say, 'You!'" Preczewski says. Finally, one of the rowers started laughing, and they all piled into a general brawl. Eventually someone said, "Coach, can we go row now?" From then on, the varsity boat flew.

You probably can't order members of an executive team to wrestle, tempting though it may be. But bringing tensions out into the open and then resolving them is one of the team leader's most important jobs.

5. Hiding from the real issues.

"Put the fish on the table," says George Kohlrieser, a professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. You've got to go through the "smelly, bloody process of cleaning it," but the reward is "a great fish dinner at the end of the day." Most people don't want to be the one who puts the proverbial fish on the table. "There's a veneer of politeness," says consultant David Nadler, "or unspoken reciprocity - we won't raise our differences in front of the boss." Consultant Ram Charan describes a $12 billion division of ABB that was headed for bankruptcy, in part because of "its culture of polite restraint. People didn't express their honest feelings" about the most important issues. The unit's leader turned it around by insisting that team members say what was on their minds.

In business, dream teams are usually part of some rescue fantasy, not the real world. "Be prepared to have an imperfect set," says Charan. "Then you've got to devote your energy to getting them to synchronize. It's very time consuming. It taxes your patience." It's life.

To avoid seducing yourself into thinking all your problems might be vaporized by assembling a dream team, resolve now to accept this fact: There was only one Dream Team, and that was the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing - it was a one-time event. (And remember, Bird and Magic, the veteran co-captains, both had reputations as team players.) For the rest of us, putting together a few talented people who will work honestly and rigorously for something greater than themselves - that's more than enough of a dream.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Teamwork articles on the way...

I have been reading the June 19, 2006 copy of Fortune magazine. It is all about teamwork. I will be giving you some of the good stuff in upcoming posts.

After I get off the lake...

Righting Wrongs

I have been withholding - not consciously, mind you - my link love.

Check out Whittaker Woman's blog (the true power behind Ragamuffin Soul).

If I have been withholding my link love, please forgive me (and let me know, so I can add you to my blog roll).

Monday, July 24, 2006


It is still HOT in Fresno, so we're heading for the hills. We're packing up and heading south to Lake Arrowhead for the rest of the week. More blogging from the lake...

Let the jokes about being a pastor and not working begin.

Peace out!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Life Lessons from SpongeBob SquarePants

This is GREAT! Friend and fellow worship leader posted this great article on Family Jules... "Life Lessons from SpongeBob." It is very insightful.

Great job, Julie!

Back from the Beach and My Thoughts about Photography

I just returned to the heat of the Central Valley from the coast of SoCal (Oxnard). Spent the day at the beach yesterday with Mom, Dad, Nana, and the boys. It's the first time I think I ever saw my dad at the beach. He was wearing a pale brownish-peach shirt and similar color shorts. My Dad's legs were WHITE (in a white guy's peachy sort of way). I told him that it was not so good to wear clothes that are the same color as your skin. It provided some good entertainment, though.

About photography... if you want to take pictures to capture the memories, it's always a good idea to take a camera. DANG!

All-in-all, it was a great, relaxing trip and it's good to be back (and Mrs. Two Blonde Boys will be home today, too). So I'm off to the store to pick up some groceries and then it's down to the church to set up for tomorrow.

PS - I lost my sunglassess in the surf after getting slammed by a pretty big wave and actually found them a few minutes later down the beach.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Whole New Appreciation

Mrs. Two Blonde Boys is at my sister's house visiting my new twin neice (Mercer - in the red) and nephew (Hudson - in the green). That has me at home wth the Two Blonde Boys... alone.

Oh yeah, and the stove broke yesterday.

And I am still trying to go to work and get everything done for the week.

And spend quality time with the guys.

How does she do it?

Monday, July 17, 2006

For the Record...

I do not win contests, however, I was a recent winner at Family Jules. That half-eaten box of Whoppers will be treasured forever. UPDATE: They ate my prize. Dang!

I also want to go on record that I scored LOWER than Family Jules in the Nerd Test. While she scored a 50, I was a mere 41 (which is still "Slightly Nerdy" as the the oldest blonde boy peering over my shoulder now - and correcting my spelling as I type - points out).

I am nerdier than 41% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

What's your Nerd Score? Click HERE to find out (although, I think that just the act of looking means you are a nerd of some sort). Let me know what your score is.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Have you seen those motivational posters. I especially like the one about the lion and the gazelle that says...
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed...every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle...when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
But have you seen the other set of posters that are decidedly more pessimistic? Those come from a company called Despair, Inc. Like the one in the picture above about Quality:
"The race for quality has no finish line- so technically, it's more like a death march."
Or the one about Motivation:

"If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job the kind robots will be doing soon."

Here's what E. L. Kersten, the Founder and COO of Despair, Inc., has to say about their products:
Motivation. Psychology tells us that motivation- true, lasting motivation- can only come from within. Common sense tells us it can’t be manufactured or productized. So how is it that a multi-billion dollar industry thrives through the sale of motivational commodities and services? Because, in our world of instant gratification, people desperately want to believe that there are simple solutions to complex problems. And when desperation has disposable income, market opportunities abound.

At Despair Inc.., we believe motivational products create unrealistic expectations, raising hopes only to dash them. That’s why we created our soul-crushingly depressing Demotivators® designs, so you can skip the delusions that motivational products induce and head straight for the disappointments that follow!
And now he even has a video... It is hilarious!

(HT: Instantly John via Family Jules)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Project Runway 3

So this is my secret: I love Bravo's Project Runway.

I do not sew. I cannot make a dress or a shirt. I do not darn socks. If I am really feeling it, I can sew a button back onto my shirt. But I do love me some Project Runway.

While it's fun to watch a bunch of insecure (or over-confident) artists slowly come unglued or overcome the odds to win it all, what I love most about the show is the art of it all. These designers are incredibly talented artists.

Last night Season 3 kicked off. Looks like a great kookish cast again this season. This week Stacey got the boot - I liked her dress, but I knew she wouldn't make it long-term - she didn't know how to use the industrial machines and so she was sewing by hand. That's just not gonna cut it, babe.

Another cool thing about Project Runway is the "extras" on the Bravo website, including the PR blogs. Daniel from last year has a blog, but the great one is from Tim Gunn (and he has a podcast, too).

Anyway, my secret is now out. So please don't call me on Wednesdays after 10 p.m. Mrs. Two Blonde Boys and I will be in the family room watching PR3.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rick Warren is in the House

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church has joined the blogosphere. Check him out HERE.

Come on, Rick... give me some link love!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top 10 Blogging Ideas When the Well Runs Dry

For a cure to your writer's block (or would that be blogger's block?), check out these 10 tips from Performancing.com.

(HT: Lifehacker)

Back in the Saddle Again!

I'm back from San Luis Obispo. Played some LOUSY golf, but the weather was great - in the 70's instead of the 100's. And a bad day on the course is better than a great day in the office.

Carlos suggested I get some sin on my legs. Or sun. Or whatever. I got some sun - don't know about the sin.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Headed for the beach...

Don't know if I will be posting for a couple of days...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together...

That's what they call long-range planning...

Monday, July 03, 2006

How to Get the Most Out of Your iPod

Here are some great tips, trick, and hacks for your iPod, old or new, dead or alive:

(HT: Lifehacker)

How fireworks work.

Have you ever wondered that? Here's the answer...

(HT: Lifehacker)

This video rocks...

Check out The Rockalot Blog for an incredible video from their services last weekend.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Skyrockets in flight...

Just a quick post, because I am spent.

I spent the weekend (and all of today) preparing for our Second Annual Freedom Fest at my church (NewCov). Randy designed a stage, lighting rig, Meyer sound system that we set up on Friday- then tore it all down again Sunday night. It was pickin' HOT on the new blacktop when we were setting up, but the temp for the show was great.

We did a concert with fireworks - it rocked and we had about 2,500-3,000 people show up for the event.

Big win - one of my midweek guitar players led a woman to the Lord.

Kudos to the band, singers, Randy, John, and the rest of the team. You guys are awesome!

It was a great night and new I'm going to sleep.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Little Something from Saddleback

This video started the Purpose Driven Worship Conference. It's a classic...