Keeping It “Real”
“Who’s on first. What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third.” The recounting of a baseball team’s line-up was the centrepiece of Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine, but a properly functioning team is no joke and can have a significant impact on the fortunes of any business. Organisations depend on individuals from different academic, social, and cultural backgrounds to work together toward a set of common goals. But it is not enough to simply throw a set of people together and label them a team.
According to the work of J. Richard Hackman, an expert on organisational behaviour and psychology, teams must be “real” in order to be effective. Research that he conducted with his colleagues established that teams need to have a known and firm constituent membership, and that there needs to be a genuine interdependence of team members upon each other. After all, how can a team truly act as a unit if people are unsure about who is a part of the team, or about whose skills and expertise are needed to solve a specific problem?
The success of a team requires not only leadership to guide unity of purpose, but also a familiarity within the team, not just to promote stronger bonds and a sense of collective responsibility, but to maximise the corporate value of the team’s accumulated knowledge, experience, and perspectives. Costello didn’t know who was on the team, and that created the vacuum of information necessary for Abbott to fill. While it makes for a great piece of classic comedy, it’s no way to run an organisation.