The Ringelmann Effect, known as ‘social loafing’ is the tendency, identified by French engineer Max Ringelmann (c.1913), for individual members of a group to become increasingly less committed as the size of their group increases. The tug-of-war team fails to proportionately increase its effort as new members join the team due to loss of motivation and coordination problems.
This is quoted as one of the many bad habits that infect teams by the authors of Committed Teams, Mario Moussa, Madeline Boyer and Derek Newberry of The Wharton School of Business. Bearing this and other teamwork weaknesses in mind, the authors answer the question “How do you create a team that is committed to high performance when few teams end up being truly greater than the sum of their parts.”
Why is their answer important? Well, teams have always been an essential part of corporate endeavour, but recently with the demise of top-down, command and control, and the rise of collaborative forms of leadership, often in complex dispersed organizations, the effectiveness of teams is critical.
At the same time in today’s highly competitive, deadline driven, business environments leading and participating well in teams is difficult. A difficulty perhaps compounded by the diversity in gender, age, and cultural background that increasingly makes up teams today. According to the authors being good at teamwork is synonymous with being good at work, and yet too often what teams deliver is “a lot of talk and little accountability.”
Their answer is based on research from Wharton’s Executive Development Program (EDP) – a ‘living lab’ which provides intensive two-week simulations during which executive level participants run complex and highly realistic businesses. Observing these groups the authors saw “what usually went wrong and what frequently went right.” And the insights they gathered enabled them to develop a simple repeatable approach to teamwork which they call the 3x3 framework.
Rich in real cases of teamwork in action, from Ford Motors to Navy SEALs, the book is constructed as a how-to guide. Part One describes the 3x3 framework concept: establishing commitments, checking alignment through building productive relationships, and closing the gap between stated goals and day-to-day behaviours. Part Two then narrows the focus to show how the framework can be applied in the most common types of team: leadership groups, innovation projects, virtual teams, start-ups, and committees.
The concluding chapter ‘The Future is Teams’ emphasises the importance of getting teamwork right in the workplace of the future. The slow-moving, hierarchical, bureaucratic organizations of the past are fast disappearing to be replaced by organizations that are flatter, more flexible and faster due to increased connectivity, where outsourcing and the sharing economy are prevalent. All of which presents a challenge to teams which in the future will need to be: flatter, looser, wider, and faster. The future for most organizations is now and this book offers invaluable help.
Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance, by Mario Moussa, Madeline Boyer and Derek Newberry. Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2016, ISBN 978-1-11915-740-3