Thursday, January 10, 2013

Professor Richard Hackman

Source: Team Diagnostics
I heard the sad news this morning of the passing of Harvard Professor Richard Hackman.  Widely acknowledged as one of the giants in the study of teams, the social psychologist influenced and advised many young scholars over the years.  Hackman earned the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Academy of Management during his career.  Perhaps more importantly, he had a vast influence on practitioners as well.   He advised and presented to many organizations in the private and public sector, offering them useful insight on how to make their teams more effective.  His book - Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances - influenced the thinking of many managers and executives and earned him the Academy of Management’s Terry Award for the best management book of the year. Here are just a couple of terrific excerpts from an HBR blog post that Hackman wrote in 2011.   In the post, Hackman explained some of the common misperceptions about teams. 

Misperception #1: Harmony helps. Smooth interaction among collaborators avoids time-wasting debates about how best to proceed.

Actually: Quite the opposite, research shows. Conflict, when well managed and focused on a team's objectives, can generate more creative solutions than one sees in conflict-free groups. So long as it is about the work itself, disagreements can be good for a team. Indeed, we found in our earlier research on symphony orchestras that slightly grumpy orchestras played a little better as ensembles than those whose members worked together especially harmoniously. 
Misperception #4: Face-to-face interaction is passé. Now that we have powerful electronic technologies for communication and coordination, teams can do their work much more efficiently at a distance.
Actually: Teams working remotely are at a considerable disadvantage. There really are benefits to sizing up your teammates face-to-face. A number of organizations that rely heavily on distributed teams have found that it is well worth the time and expense to get members together when the team is launched, again around the midpoint of the team's work, and yet again when the work has been completed.

1 comment:

Andy Kaufman, PMP said...

I hadn't heard of his passing.... I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to interview Dr. Hackman a couple years ago. He was generous, entertaining, and packed with insights. He will be missed....