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团队升级实用指南

Robert Sutton 2014年04月18日

企业不断发展,员工队伍不断壮大的时候,如何继续保持团队的锐气和效率,从总体上提升团队的表现?研究发现,最好的团队往往人数不多,女性比例较高,而且知道什么时候、采取什么方式奋勇抗争。按照这些特征来搭建、管理团队就能实现团队的升级。

    我和斯坦福大学(Stanford University)的同事哈吉•拉奥花了7年时间研究企业如何百尺竿头更进一步。我们发现,这个过程主要是通过团队带动的。具体来说就是以正确的方式和恰当的速度推动新团队成长,同时把公司上下多个团队的努力编织在一起。

    即使对微小的年轻公司而言,这种动态过程也是至关重要的。创建于2010年的“新闻聚合器”应用脉冲新闻(Pulse News)就是一个绝佳范例。这家公司的员工只是增加到区区8个人之后,绩效问题就开始接连爆发。有鉴于此,创始人阿克沙伊•科塔里和安基特•古普塔把公司员工分裂成3个小团队。几乎就在同时,这家年轻公司开始以更快的速度生产出性能更好的软件。此外,公司的人际关系也变得更加和谐,员工们时常携手解决彼此的问题。

    当脉冲新闻的员工扩张到12人(分为4个团队,都在同一个房间工作)时,每支团队依然通过公告板向其他员工实时传达各自的工作进展。每天下午,每支团队都会做一个简短的发言,向公司上下汇报他们正在从事的工作,以及他们需要在哪些方面获得指导和帮助。等到员工增长到25人,用户人数突破3,000万大关的时候,脉冲新闻继续依靠小团队的力量。2013年,这家公司被社交网络巨头LinkedIn收购,收购价高达9,000万美元。

    无论你正在呕心沥血经营一家像脉冲新闻这样的初创公司,正在开设多个新店面,还是正在一家现存的组织内推行全新的实践方式,你都可以借助具有以下五大特征的有效团队来推动企业茁壮成长或扩展某个项目的受众群体。

    构建小规模团队

    当团队工作需要进行大量的信息交流和协调时,这一点尤为重要。对于大多数任务而言,4或5人是最优人数,一旦超过10或12人,团队表现和人际关系确实会受到影响。许多经过精心设计的研究表明,发生这种状况的原因在于认知超载。比起3、4个人的团队,协调10位队友的活动、同时还要跟踪他们古怪的行为和情绪变化,这个难度要大得多。为什么海豹突击队(Navy Seals)使用4人战斗小组,麦肯锡公司(McKinsey)的项目小组通常由4名咨询师组成?这就是原因所在。二战期间,美国海军陆战队最初采用12人战斗分队,但很快就恢复为4人小组。这是因为,士兵们突然变得萎靡不振,战斗力随之大幅下降。一项由哈佛大学商学院( Harvard University Business School)教授梅丽莎•瓦伦丁和艾米•埃德蒙森主持的研究发现,当一家大型医院的急诊科把医生和护士分为4个不同的6人诊断团队(而不是尝试着作为一个大组进行运营)之后,医护人员的沟通质量和信任程度大幅改善,就连病人等待就诊的平均时间也从8个小时骤降至5个小时。

    使用层级结构击溃糟糕的官僚主义

    随着组织的发展,除了分割大团队之外,为了把各支团队的工作编织在一起,你还需要添加一些层级和流程。就以脉冲新闻为例。在他们分成4支团队(每支团队都有一个领导者)之后,他们使用公告板和午后简报来促进4支团队之间的沟通和协调。层次结构,流程和管理者有时候被人们看成是不好的字眼。然而,随着组织变得越来越大,越来越复杂,只要小剂量使用并辅以适当的防范,它们都是必要的措施。Twitter公司首席工程师克里斯•弗莱强调指出,如果各种规则、角色和流程让人们“觉得他们好像是在淤泥中行走”,明智的领导者会使用层级结构来修复官僚主义。

    My Stanford University colleague, Huggy Rao, spent seven years studying how organizations scale up excellence. We discovered that the process happens largely through teams -- by growing new teams at the right rate in the right way and weaving together the efforts of multiple teams across the company.

    Such dynamics are crucial to even tiny young companies. For example, Pulse News, maker of a "news aggregator" app, was started in 2010. Performance problems began to flare up after the company grew to just eight people. So founders Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta split Pulse into three small teams. Almost immediately, the young company started producing better software and doing it faster -- and people were getting along better and helping each other solve problems.

    When the company expanded to 12 people (working in four teams, all in the same room), each team maintained a bulletin board that communicated their current work to everyone at Pulse. Every afternoon, each team gave a short talk to the company about what they were working on and where they needed advice and help. Pulse continued to rely on small teams as it grew to 25 employees and 30 million users; the company was bought by LinkedIn (LNKD) for $90 million in 2013.

    Whether you are growing a startup like Pulse, opening multiple new locations, or spreading new practices across an existing organization, we identified five hallmarks of effective teams that will help you sustain excellence as you grow an organization or expand a program's reach.

    Keep teams small

    This is especially important when teams do work that requires intensive information exchange and coordination. For most tasks, four or five is optimal, and once teams get larger than 10 or 12, performance and interpersonal relationships really suffer. Many careful studies show that this happens because of cognitive overload. It is far more difficult to coordinate your activities and to keep track of the quirks and moods of 10 teammates than three or four. That is why, for example, the Navy Seals use four-person combat teams and McKinsey engagement teams usually have four consultants. In World War II, the U.S. Marines used 12-person combat teams at first, but quickly reverted to four-person teams because so many performance and morale problems reared their ugly heads. And a Harvard University Business School study by Melissa Valentine and Amy Edmondson found that when the emergency department of a large hospital assigned doctors and nurses to four different six-person pods (rather than trying to function as one big group), not only did communication and trust improve dramatically, waiting time for the average patient dropped from eight hours to five hours.

    Use hierarchy to defeat bad bureaucracy

    As organizations grow, in addition to dividing large teams, you will need to add a few more layers and a bit more process to weave together what happens across teams. Look at Pulse. After they divided into four teams (each with a leader) they used the bulletin boards and brief afternoon reports to foster communication and coordination across the four teams. Hierarchy, process, and manager are sometimes treated as dirty words. Yet as organizations get larger and more complex, these are necessary measures so long as they are used in small doses and with proper precautions. Chris Fry, who leads engineering at Twitter (TWTR), emphasizes that when rules, roles, and processes cause people "to feel as if they are walking in muck," wise leaders use the hierarchy to repair the bureaucracy.

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