The First Book of Management

Chapter 8 - Teams from Hell

Teams are complicated things, and a great deal has been written about them

I knew all about the theories of “mixed team roles” but never really got it, until I did a part time management course. We had to do lots of group work, researching a subject and then presenting our findings verbally and as a report.  

The tutor would say “Divide yourselves up into groups of 4 or 5” and I would immediately catch the eye of the others who I liked to work with.

Why did I like them? Because they were just like me. There would be a group of five of us, all pushy, all outspoken, all with strong opinions, none of us interested in boring details. I’d like to say that we had a lot of fun but didn’t do a very good project, but the truth was that we didn’t even have that much fun! At first it was good, we’d kick ideas around, get distracted, have a laugh, but then the time would get short and we’d have to get on with the work. We all had different ideas. Nobody wanted to give in. Nobody wanted to do the legwork on someone else’s idea. At 3 am we’d finish, with a rather scrappy job done. The annoying thing was that we knew we could do better. We all had the brains and the energy to do a great job, but somehow it never got done.

Then one day the tutor divided us into groups himself, and to my horror I had my team from hell. I had the fussy guy from the library, the quiet negative one from the insurance company, the slow pedantic one from the Research Lab, and the caring sharing one from the NHS. This was not going to be fun!

In fact it wasn’t fun, at least in the conventional sense of having a laugh. We just got on with the job and did it really well. I’d suggest an idea, the research guy would say it wasn’t strictly true in all cases (which was true I suppose), the library guy would offer to investigate in more detail (yes great, rather you than me), the insurance lady would point out a major omission in our plan (oops!), the NHS lady would ask the librarian if he had a point to make since he was looking unhappy (was he? I hadn’t noticed) and he would make a really good point, I’d press for a simplification because time was running out (and they’d actually do what I suggested!) and before long we would have an excellent result.  

Quite unlike the usual team, and far better.

So the biggest thing I learnt from my management course was:

Message number 8: You need a mixture to make up a good team, and this will include some people who you don’t immediately like. They are good for you!

Of course they still need to be competent, and a team of people who you dislike will not necessarily work unless the mix is right. Conversely if you choose people by whether you like them, however competent they are, you are heading for trouble.
Next Page
Chapter 1   - The Captain Of The Ship
Chapter 2   - Wandering About
Chapter 3   – Difficult Jack
Chapter 4   - Dr. Evil
Chapter 5   - Knowledge is Power
Chapter 6   - Destruction
Chapter 7   - A real friend
Chapter 8   - Teams from Hell
Chapter 9   - Dangerous Roy
Chapter 10 - Bob vs. Bob
Chapter 11 - Own Goals