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The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (Collins Business Essentials) Paperback – July 25, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: Collins Business Essentials
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060522003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060522001
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The importance of teams has become a cliche of modern business theory, but few have a clear idea of what it means. In this new edition of their best-selling primer, Katzenbach and Smith try to impart some analytical rigor to the concept. Drawing on their experience as management consultants and a plethora of case studies at companies like Burlington Northern and Motorola, they cover such topics as the optimal size of teams, coping with turnover in team personnel and nurturing "extraordinary teams" rather than "pseudo-teams." Reacting against the touchy-feely interpersonal bent of discourse on teams, they emphasize hard-nosed principles of "performance, focus, and discipline," over the softer concerns of "communication, openness and 'chemistry.'" Teams, they argue, gel and achieve not by developing "togetherness," but by tackling and surmounting specific "outcome-based" challenges ("eliminate all late deliveries...within 90 days" rather than the vaguer "develop a plan for improving customer satisfaction."). Some of the authors' recommendations are reasonably precise and practical, but too many are nebulous truisms ("keep the purpose, goals, and approach relevant and meaningful") or weighed down by turgid consultant-ese ("integrating the performance goals of formal, structural units as well as special ad hoc group efforts becomes a significant process design challenge"). The case studies are better written, but it's not clear that these inspiring anecdotes of team triumph add up to a systematic doctrine. The book leaves the impression that teams ultimately just have to learn by doing.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The authors, who are both consultants, conducted extensive interviews with companies to discover how successful teams are created and sustained. The result is not a research report but a collection of minicase histories and commentary. Some of the findings: Teams respond to performance challenges and not to managers' exhortations for more "teamwork." Organizations committed to high-performance standards and willing to modify individual accountability requirements experience the greatest success with teams. Successful team leaders are not necessarily those with remarkable leadership qualities. Instead, they "simply need to believe in their purpose and their people." Team leaders do real work, remove obstacles, and build trust and confidence. Recommended for larger public libraries and special business collections.
- Andrea C. Dragon, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This is a text book we use in the class.
Jing Jiang
While this book presents clear theories and structural understanding of teams, the case studies are not the greatest testament to their validity.
Reed Moore
It allows us to move forward toward high-performance organizations with a process-based approach to continuously improving team effectiveness.
Richard E. Biehl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Biehl on August 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is the result of research into why teams are important, what separates effective from ineffective teams, and how organizations can tap the effectiveness of teams to become high-performance organizations. Liberally citing research efforts in 47 specific organizations, Katzenbach and Smith share their insights into what makes teams work.
They emphasize teams as an important part of a three part cycle leading to a high-performance organization: a) shareholders who provide opportunities, b) employees who deliver value, and c) customers who generate returns. The performance targets in the high-performance organization are multidimensional, impacting all three cyclic contributors. Teams provide real benefits to employees, the result being an impact throughout the cycle. If employees increase the value they deliver, customers will increase the return, allowing shareholders to increase the opportunities available to employees.
Central to the thesis is their defini! tion of team, concentrating on "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." [45] The distinction is far more than semantic. Working groups who do not share all of these characteristics are not to be considered teams. "Unlike teams, working groups rely on the sum of 'individual bests' for their performance. They pursue no collective work products requiring joint effort. By choosing the team path instead of the working group, people commit to take the risks of conflict, joint work-products, and collective action necessary to build a common purpose, set of goals, approach, and mutual accountability" [85]
Katzenbach and Smith aren't completely negative toward working groups.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brian Prucey on November 10, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

The Wisdom of Teams presents Katzenbach and Smith's contention that real teams are the best approach to building a high-performance organization. The authors blended together their highly detailed framework for team development with examples of how several corporations successfully or unsuccessfully implemented these team principles. While acknowledging that teams may not be the best solution for every organization's problems, the authors unashamedly insisted that businesses do themselves a disservice by not considering the team-based approach. The book's twelve chapters are organized into three parts: Understanding Teams, Becoming a Team, and Exploiting the Potential.


Part One, Understanding Teams, introduces the reader to the authors' thesis that teams present the best approach to creating a high-performance organization. Teams are defined as a "small group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose and set of specific performance goals" (21). Teams are not the same as work groups, committees, councils or task forces where the emphasis is on individual performance and accountability; that is, the sum of individual bests. Neither is every group that calls itself a team a true team. They may exhibit team-like characteristics or share team-like values, but those in and of themselves do not make a team. The distinguishing characteristic of teams is the synergistic effect created when individual accountability is exchange for mutual group accountability and shared group responsibility. Additionally, teams need to do real work in order be characterized as a real team. They must produce a specific work product that contributes to the organization's mission and success. However, achieving real team status is often difficult.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Vincent Simonet on June 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Not to discount the insight, wisdom, and professional observations from these astute consultants, I am left wondering overall if they have not done a greater job of distorting truths rather than publishing them?? It appears that they discounted communication and cohesion under the pretense that these are "softer" components which do not accurately reflect important processes within teams? However, consulting several meta-analyses and research publications will reveal that these conclusions are far form the truth. Cohesion, which is the individual members attraction to the team, is meaningfully related to team performance, especially when the demands of the task necessitate greater levels of coordination, communication, and mutual performance monitoring among group members (Gulley, Devine,& Whitney, 1995). This concept is believed to be important because it aids in group formation, maintenance, and communication. Further, cohesion is though to facilitate group productivity because it permits less inhibited interactions, allows greater enforcement of working norms, and increases individual commitment to the group.

Communication is also an absolutely critical process to team functioning, and any book that discounts this notion clearly has no authority to discuss high-performing teams. For instance, according to Kozlowski & Bell (2003): "From our perspective, the central issue in team processes concern the synergistic combination of individual contributions to team effectiveness. Communication is a lens. Thus, research on communication type and frequency can be revealing of what team members are trying to coordinate, how much information they need, or how difficult it is to coordinate their activity" (pg. 354).
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