Teamwork is necessary in every field of business, although teams look a little different today than they did in the past because they are more dispersed, diverse, and digital. But their success still depends on a set of fundamentals that make any team a good team.
Here are six examples of companies that emphasize teamwork in the workplace.
1. The Study of Teamwork and Google
How can you compile the perfect team? Google executives believed the secret was combining the best people. But it wasn’t that simple.
In 2012, Google started Project Aristotle. It took several years and included interviews with hundreds of employees. The company analyzed data about the people on more than 100 active teams. Ultimately, the conclusion was what competent managers have always known: in the best teams, members show sensitivity and listen to each another.
For example, Matt Sakaguchi was a mid-level manager at Google who wanted to put Project Aristotle’s findings into practice. He took his team off-site to talk about his cancer diagnosis. Although initially silent, his colleagues then began sharing their own personal stories. This dialog enabled them to be vulnerable and learn to trust each other.
At the core of both Google’s findings and Matt’s team experience is the concept of “psychological safety”. This is a shared belief that a team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. Now Google describes psychological safety as the most important factor in building a successful team. They found it has less to do with who is on a team and more with how the members interact with one another.
2. Four Seasons and a Fresh Croissant
Steve Wynn, the founder of Wynn Resort & Casino, was staying with his family at Four Seasons in Paris. His daughter ate only half of a croissant from the room service breakfast they ordered, leaving the other half for later. Wynn and his family left to explore Paris, but when they returned, the pastry was gone.
There was a message from the front desk. It said that housekeeping had removed the half croissant from the room, assuming the family would prefer a fresh pastry later. So, the front desk contacted the kitchen to set one aside and room service was informed that they would need to deliver the pastry.
This simple response required a high level of teamwork and communication between different departments in the hotel. It was only possible because employees understood the ultimate goal was customer satisfaction and accepted their respective roles in making the experience fantastic.
The lesson is that teamwork is essential to excellent customer experiences so employees should be empowered to be creative, intuitive, thorough, and generous.
3. Pixar: Technology Alone is Not Enough.
After being forced out of Apple In 1986, Steve Jobs bought a small computer manufacturer called Pixar. In 2000, he relocated the company to an abandoned canning factory that was to have three buildings with separate offices. Instead, Jobs decided to have a single vast space with an atrium in the middle.
For Jobs, the primary challenge at Pixar was getting its different cultures to work together and collaborate. He saw the separated offices as a design problem. He shifted the mailboxes to the atrium and moved the meeting rooms, cafeteria, coffee bar, and gift shop as well. Brad Bird, the director of “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” said, “Steve realized that when people run into each other and they make eye contact, things happen.”
The emphasis on bringing together various approaches has always been a defining trait of Steve Jobs. He insisted that the best creativity happened when people from disparate fields were connected. The Latin crest of Pixar University says it all: Alienus Non-Diutius. Alone no longer.
4. The Growth of Marvel Comics
More interesting than the superheroes of the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four, are the super-talented teams that worked to create the comic books that have gone on to break sales and box office records.
There were writers, like the famous Stan Lee, who often came up with an idea that the penciler, someone like Jack Kirby (Captain America, the Hulk, etc.) or Steve Ditko (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange) would block out in pages of dramatic sequential drawings. Then the boards would go to letterers and inkers before colorists added the primary colors. These were sent to printers next, distributed and sold at local drug stores or comic book shops.
Not only was it necessary for each step of this process to be carefully planned among all contributors, there also had to be collaboration between writers and artists as they developed characters and story lines. Teamwork enhanced creativity.
5. A Heavy Challenge for Ford
Ford needed to update and improve an automotive icon, the F-150 pickup truck, without eroding the qualities that made it the best-selling vehicle in the country for more than 30 years. But the company wanted better fuel efficiency for 2015, which meant introducing economical six-cylinder engines and using an all-aluminum body,
Pete Reyes was chief engineer for the top-secret project. He said: “We had all these parallel work teams on different aspects of the truck, and we’d meet once a month for 18 months, making sure all the work would come together into a viable vehicle.”
The team that handled most of the design for the new truck included Peter Frantzeskakis and Jerry Farrell. According to Reyes, “The three of us just clicked. Both of those guys are unbelievable workhorses, and we each could have done the other’s job. . . I don’t think I’ll ever work on a team that tight again. We made all our deadlines.”
The 1,000-member team encountered unique problems, such as the fact that the world’s existing supply of auto-grade aluminum wasn’t enough to cover the F-150’s volume. In addition to the 700-pound weight loss from the switch to aluminum, the team’s other innovations contributed considerably: 70 pounds from the steel frame, 23 from the steering knuckles, 26.9 from the mechanical emergency brake, 31.7 from the front seats and 2.7 pounds from the front bumper structure.
What was the reaction in the marketplace? In October 2015, Ford announced third-quarter earnings of $1.9 billion, up $1.1 billion from 2014, largely on strong sales of the new F-150.
Now that you’ve read these examples, how would you rate the culture of your organization? Is it safe for risk-taking? Are employees empowered to provide good customer experiences? Are there varied backgrounds and approaches to collaborating?
If you answered no to any of the above, contact Perspectives to learn more about our team assessments and customized sessions on team cohesion and group dynamics. If you are already a customer of our LEAD employee assistance program, call your account manager to inquire about sessions we can provide as part of your annual agreement.