top of page

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

~ Andrew Carnegie



According to Richard Hackman, a Harvard professor of organizational psychology, and a leading expert on teams, small teams can generate magic but it’s not guaranteed. The belief that teams make us more creative and productive—and are the best way to get things done—is deeply entrenched. Often teams underperform despite all their extra resources because of several common mistakes that renders them ineffective.


The biggest pitfall is that members do not agree on what the team is supposed to be doing or even on who is on the team. Without a clearly stated and agreed-upon goal, your Freedom Cell will accomplish little, other than getting together and offering moral support to each other.

Bigger is not always better and as a team grows, the effort needed to manage the members increases almost exponentially. If your group becomes too big, the ideal plan is to split it into two groups.

The leader of the cell group needs to be ruthless about defining teams and keeping them small (fewer than 10 members). Negative individuals can be team destroyers and they should simply be forced out of the cell. The leader also must set a compelling direction for the team—but in so doing, may encounter intense resistance that puts the whole group at risk, and it could fall apart if there is too much dispute over the direction and goals of the team.

Another fallacy about teams is that those with long-term membership eventually become stale. In fact, Hackman’s research reveals that new teams make 50% more mistakes than established teams. The group must be patient and allow for sufficient time for everyone to gel. Give yourselves at least a year, because just like wine, it gets better with age.

Every team needs a deviant to avoid complacency—someone who is willing to stir up enough debate and dissension to open up the group to new ideas. Unfortunately, such individuals often get thrown off the team, robbing it of its chance to be magical. The leader needs to discern whether the individual is a destroyer or a deviant.

No matter how good the leader is, he or she cannot force the team to perform. However, by being disciplined about how a team is set up and managed, instituting the right support systems, and providing coaching in group processes, the leader can increase the likelihood that a team will be great.

The most important meeting is the first meeting. Generally, small groups establish everything in the first moments, including the goals, direction, structure and group dynamics. The team leader needs to be very conscious of this fact and be quick to steer the first meeting carefully and competently.

One of the other fallacies of small teams is that they have to be running harmoniously to function properly, but the reality is that the team needs to have some tension to keep it vital and effective. Too much tension, however is bad and the team may fall apart if there is excessive social drama. It’s usually the leader’s job to maintain the balance, although the group may need a peace-maker—someone who helps smooth out the hard edges between members.

[excerpt from Beyond the New World Order]

bottom of page