I have always considered Dr. J. Richard Hackman the academic expert on Teams. He is now at Harvard and was recently interviewed by Diane Coutu. Key elements of the interview are published in the May 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. Some excerpts are available at the link.
While still extolling the possibilities of working in teams, he also expresses concerns, based on real-life experiences, that unless teams are used correctly with respect to any program or project, they are as likely to be ineffective as to be successful. This has been my experience, over the years, as well. To build a team that works, five elements are required:
1. Teams must be real.
2. Teams need a compelling direction.
3. Teams need enabling structures.
4. Teams need a supportive organization.
5. Teams need expert coaching.
I will deal with each of these issues in future notes, building on his research and adding my own research and comments based on observation.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have teams worked, in your experience?
Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)