By Billy Bennett

There is an interesting discussion going on at the Harvard Business Review on this topic "THE FUTURE OF TALENT IS CLUSTERS".  The idea posed is that we should hire "clusters" (aka teams) instead of individuals.  Or at least considering it.  To me it is an "everything old is new again" conversation.  ...And that is a very good thing. 

In the 90's we gained much from an intense period of study on teams.  When I say "we" I mean those of us fascinated about advancing knowledge about group work and dynamics.  However, we lost the way a bit. 

We lost momentum when other forms of collaboration were seen as equal to the power of the autonomous and self managing team as perhaps one of the most important units of work design.  I'm not sure that's the case. In fact, I am certain of it.   However, the HBR article is an example where the opportunity to learn is again coming to the forefront.

If you think this is unusual - hiring a "cluster" or team as an intact unit - I have seen it. We worked with a client who designed one of the most successful  autonomous team workplaces to date.  They were written about in journals and feted at three national conferences.  However, when the client decided to build a new,  more automated facility too far away for team members to relocate, the company worked with local businesses to find the team members new employment.  Here is where I witnessed a first for me (and I think maybe a first in modern era business)... the reputation of the teams were so great and impressive in the region that some of the teams were hired as "intact" teams.  They were asked by their new employers to bring the skills and capabilities to the new job.  I lost track of what happened to the team members, but they certainly learned team skills at the most advanced level I had seen before - or since.   They had developed an ability to go into any situation and begin assessing how they could make things work better and how they could be successful doing the work.  What business could not use that?

Have you ever seen a work group so impressive that others wanted to hire them away - intact?  That was the ultimate praise.



05/13/2013 11:02am

Excellent post Billy. Everything old is new: I remember hiring teams out of the old Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) to help us at GE/NBC get our 'net started those many years ago. It was a concept fully accepted at GE.

05/13/2013 11:46am

Great example. The power of the team (now often called pod or clusters) should be that you get results beyond the "sum of the parts"...and that only happens with the maturity/development of the team.

It's also fitting with what we are learning about how people are influencing today. Individuals certainly have impact...but they usually have a "cluster" that acts together. The importance of team seems to be returning.


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