In the last 10+ years I’ve studied teamwork by talking to a lot of teams in different organizations. Besides that, I’ve read a lot of books on this topic to compare my findings with those from others. Not surprisingly I found a lot of overlap in some of those books. Here are my top 5 recommendations for running self organized teams, scaling teamwork and setting the right direction:
1. Team of Teams
by General Stanley McChrystal
My favourite book when it comes to scaling teams by providing more autonomy. It’s a fascinating read how the US military needed to change from a very hierarchical system to give their teams more autonomy in order to make them faster and more engaged. The book gives a lot of examples and reasons for traditional top down organizations to make the switch to more self driven approach.
2. The Best Team Wins
by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
This book describes a lot of great concepts and real world examples how to build great teams. It talks a lot about the need of cross functional teams and how to lead self directed teams. One chapter that I found most interesting (and haven’t really read a lot about in other books) was the one on understanding different generations and the different motivators that drives Millennials, Gen-x’ers, and Baby Boomers. It helps me in my daily work to get behind behaviours, demands and motivators fo my team.
3. Measure What Matters
by John Doerr
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen for a lot of teams is goal setting and following. This books describes how to use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to measure what really matters: the outcome of teamwork, how to be effective vs. being efficient. John Doerr not only describes how OKRs helped Google to scale but also gives a lot of mini case studies from other organizations. After reading this book you can start immediately trying out OKRs for your team – It changed the way I and my team focus on bigger initiatives.
4. Radical Candor
Everyone in a team should read this book about being a better colleague by giving radical candid feedback. It’s a book for leaders as well as team mates. It helped me to understand also the different types of people on my team like making the distinction between Rockstars and Superstars. Kim explains that you need both types in your organization to grow and build on a solid platform. I see the value of different team members differently and have learned how to motivate people differently after reading this book.
5. Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
by Patty McCord
Patty is telling the interesting story about scaling Netflix from an HR perspective. I really love the cultural aspects and it’s a great view into how Silicon Valley companies motivates its employees by giving them freedom on one hand and holding them accountable on the other. Since I’ve been working for years in such a company I can totally relate to this culture that covers attributes like:
- The greatest motivation is contributing to success
- Every single employee should understand the business
- Practice radical honesty
- Debate vigorously
- Build the company now that you want to be in the future