|Volume 1: No. 15|
Bart Huthwaite (Institute for Competitive Design, Rochester, MI) has some suggestions for developing new products. You may find that they apply to research teams as well, especially if you are proposing to start a research center. 1) Put leadership above technical skill. The leader should be of equal rank with other team members, and must have previous team experience. The group leader must inspire, coach, facilitate, and mediate. 2) Select the team for the task. Don't keep an existing team intact for a new design task. 3) Keep teams small. Three to eight full-time members seem to work well. 4) Develop a mission statement and establish responsibilities before starting the design work. Agree on a set of metrics for success. These metrics should be proposed by the team and approved by management. 5) Give team members the financial support, authority, autonomy, and training to get their job done. 6) Management should ask for periodic reviews, but should avoid direct participation. Individuals (rather than the team as a whole) should be rewarded after the job is done. 7) Appoint successful team members to leadership roles on new teams. [Design News, 6/17.]
Incidentally, the question of team rewards is very controversial. If you reward individuals, there is a tendency for one to sabotage or neglect another in order to look better by comparison. Some experts would recommend rewarding the team as a whole, but not everyone is motivated to achieve an equal slice of a bigger pie. Besides, success is success; how do you assign different rewards to different teams? The best policy appears to be individual rewards based on contribution to team success. The measure should be subjective and the awards somewhat spontaneous -- people will work hard for sincere praise of specific contributions, but become cynical about scheduled awards for meeting management-set performance goals.
The Forestry Service had an interesting "system" that evolved spontaneously. Each employee has the "right" to award a certificate of merit to any other employee -- one certificate per year. Recipients of such awards are naturally quite proud of them. Managers have no part in this, but a wall full of peer praise would certainly have some effect on formal evaluations.