Why Work Teams are Being Replaced by Teaming

Last Updated Jul 19, 2011 3:42 PM EDT

Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor and expert on organizations, tells Forbes.com that teams are being replaced in the modern corporation.

"I see teams disappearing, which will sound very surprising because, in fact, we hear more and more about teams. But stable, bounded, clearly defined teams are less and less in evidence. What I see more of is "teaming."

In other words, teams are formed as needed, with expertise culled from around the organization. When the task is completed, the team disbands. Such arrangements require team members to develop a new roster of skills to be effective "teaming" members.

For example, a speed-dating ability to sum up people quickly would be desirable since team members need to develop trust with their colleagues. Relationship building was more easily done when teams met regularly for months or even years. But in this current environment of team-as-mashup, members have to gain confidence and comfort with others in a very short period of time.

"We're going to have to get better at learning how to quickly relate to people we don't know; learning how to trust them, learning how to share our knowledge, extract their knowledge, synthesize it, even though we come from very different backgrounds, different expertise areas and so forth," Edmondson believes. She provides some tips for doing just that in the interview, conducted by Karl Moore.

I see a role for Intranets or social networks to play a role here. Each new team project should come with an associated virtual meeting space and document repository. Just assigned to a team? Visit the meeting space to read bios of your fellow team members, their personal likes and dislikes (if they are in the mood to share), and other information useful for building affinity with others.

Do you see teams being replaced by teaming in your organization?

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(Photo by Flickr user Budzlife, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.