New breakthrough thinking in organizational learning, leadership, and change
Continuous improvement, understanding complex systems, and promoting innovation are all part of the landscape of learning challenges today's companies face. Amy Edmondson shows that organizations thrive, or fail to thrive, based on how well the small groups within those organizations work. In most organizations, the work that produces value for customers is carried out by teams, and increasingly, by flexible team-like entities. The pace of change and the fluidity of most work structures means that it's not really about creating effective teams anymore, but instead about leading effective teaming.
Teaming shows that organizations learn when the flexible, fluid collaborations they encompass are able to learn. The problem is teams, and other dynamic groups, don't learn naturally. Edmondson outlines the factors that prevent them from doing so, such as interpersonal fear, irrational beliefs about failure, groupthink, problematic power dynamics, and information hoarding. With Teaming, leaders can shape these factors by encouraging reflection, creating psychological safety, and overcoming defensive interpersonal dynamics that inhibit the sharing of ideas. Further, they can use practical management strategies to help organizations realize the benefits inherent in both success and failure.
- Presents a clear explanation of practical management concepts for increasing learning capability for business results
- Introduces a framework that clarifies how learning processes must be altered for different kinds of work
- Explains how Collaborative Learning works, and gives tips for how to do it well
- Includes case-study research on Intermountain healthcare, Prudential, GM, Toyota, IDEO, the IRS, and both Cincinnati and Minneapolis Children's Hospitals, among others
Based on years of research, this book shows how leaders can make organizational learning happen by building teams that learn.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpfulBy Davis Liu on April 18, 2012 Format: Hardcover
Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business school has crafted a practical evidenced based book on how leaders and organizations must approach the increasing complexity of problems they face. Unlike the mindset of execution, which was successful in the past, Professor Edmondson demonstrates that in an increasingly competitive global economy a different approach is needed.
Organizations must learn by teaming.
She provides leaders a clear understanding of how individual and organizational psychology, the reality of hierarchical status, cultural differences, and distance can and do separate team members which can prevent successful teaming. Leaders can close these gaps by understanding the existence of these obstacles and by adapting their leadership style to support and facilitate teaming successfully. She demonstrates the challenges as well as the solutions where teaming has gone well and not so well (the "impossible" rescue of miners in Chile and space shuttle Columbia tragedy) with numerous case studies and insights.
Professor Edmondson also notes that leaders must also thoughtfully identify where the challenges they face fit on the Process Knowledge Spectrum (routine, complex, or innovation). Routine operations could be a car manufacturing plant where outcomes and certainty are known. At the other extreme, innovation operations, like an academic research lab, the outcomes and certainty are quite unknown. Although the teaming framework applies, the leader's specific behaviors and actions change. Having excellent outcomes and teaming necessitates matching the right approach to the correct operation.
Interestingly to maximize learning, conflict and failure are necessary for teaming to be successful. These can only occur if leaders create an environment of psychological safety. Learning thoughtfully from these failures and framing them as essential for continuous improvement and innovation is key for organizations to benefit from teaming.
"For over a century, we've focused too much on relentless execution and depended too much on fear to get things done. That era is over...human and organizational obstacles to teaming and learning can be overcome...Few of today's most pressing social problems can be solved within the four walls of any organization, no matter how enlightened or extraordinary... Generating ideas to solve problems is the currency of the future; teaming is the way to develop, implement, and improve those ideas."
Although at times, the conclusions from her twenty years of research and observation seem counterintuitive, her findings and stories woven into a actionable framework and structure makes Teaming--How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy compelling. It is destined to be a classic reference for leaders today and in the foreseeable future as they lead their colleagues and organizations into confronting and solving increasingly complex problems and challenges.
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Amy Edmondson characterizes "teaming" as "teamwork on the fly." It could also be termed "informal collaboration on steroids." Whatever, the fact remains that human beings have been exchanging information at least since the discovery of caves as shelters. Edmondson observes, "Though teaming refers to a dynamic activity rather than to a traditional, bounded group structure, many of its purposes and benefits are grounded in basic principles of teams and teamwork. Among the benefits of teams is their ability to integrate diverse expertise as needed to accomplish many important tasks." In what Peter Senge characterizes as the "total learning organization," everyone is both a teacher and a student, depending on the given information exchange. The extent to which teaming is spontaneous is determined by the extent to which it is allowed to be. (The same is true of innovative thinking.)
Edmonson explains how to achieve major strategic objectives, such as these discussed in the first chapter:
o Formulating a new way of thinking about new ways to team (viewed as a verb)
o Organizing to execute
o Learning to team and teaming to learn
o Establishing the process knowledge spectrum
o Formulating new ways of thinking about new ways to lead
Edmonson's approach in each of the eight chapters is to identify, briefly, the "what" of some dimension or component of teaming and then devote most of her (and her reader's) attention to "how" to make it happen. She also makes skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each chapter: "Leadership Summary" and "Lessons and Actions." They serve two separate but immensely important purposes: they highlight key points and essential execution issues, and, they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later.
I also appreciate the fact that Edmondson inserts several dozen Tables (e.g. 6.1: "Common Boundaries That Impede Teaming and Organizational Learning," on Page 202) and Exhibits (e.g. 4.2: "The Benefits of Psychological Safety," Page 126) that provide essential supplementary information. Moreover, she makes excellent use of checklists of key points or sequences of action steps, also inserted throughout her lively and eloquent narrative. The ones that caught my eye include:
o Obstacles to effective teaming (Pages 61-66)
o Steps for developing and reinforcing a learning frame (Pages 104-107)
o Developing a learning approach to failure (Pages 168-170)
o Using the process knowledge spectrum (Pages 229-234)
A brief commentary such as this can only begin to suggest the scope and depth of Edmondson's rigorous and substantive examination of how organizations, learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. As I worked my way through the book, I was reminded of relevant passages in two other books I have read recently. First, from Tom Davenport's latest book, Judgment Calls, co-authored with Brooke Manville. They offer "an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance": [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics]. That is, "the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control."
And now, a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker's latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: "The key question companies need to address is not `[begin italics] Should [end italics] we make mistakes?' but rather `[begin italics] Which [end italics] mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'"
As Amy Edmondson, explains so convincingly, teaming can maximize the quality, impact, and value of both organizational judgment and purposeful mistakes. Bravo!
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