Dennis Britton suggested Christopher M. Avery’s “Teamwork Is An Individual Skill” to me, and to show what great team member he is, loaned it to me while he was in the middle of it because he really wanted me to read it.
“Teamwork … ” is an amazing book, and is tied in my mind for the best book I have read this year with “The Goal”, though they are both very different books. “Teamwork …” is about exactly what it sounds like, how excellent teams don’t form randomly but through active commitment of all individuals on the team. When people say things like, “I just got on a bad team,” that statement is a reflection of speakers lack of understanding of how excellent teams work.
The book is chock full of gems – examples, exercises, explanations and practical applications of the theories expounded upon in the book. I have to admit that one annoying thing about the book is Avery’s reference to his trademark “TeamWisdom”. TeamWisdom is never fully defined in a single place but rather seems to include whatever Avery deems as productive team behavior, almost whimsically.
Oddly enough though, when I was reading this book, I was constantly reminded of the behavior of one of my colleagues, Mark Chang, who is a paragon of teamwork as an individual skill. In particular, Avery talks about the importance of “calling it” – that being the act of informing a team member whenever they acting even in the slightest way outside of the team’s interest or goals. Avery brings up this skill many times in many different ways.
Another example of these gems I speak of comes almost as throwaway near the end of the book. Avery instructs the readers to write down all their expectations about how people should behave in their presence, and then to prioritize those expectations. Once done, the reader is encouraged to identify how and when to make commitments with team members in order to realize those expectations.
There are so many good examples and exercises in this book that this blog entry would be too long to read if I put them all down. I’ll be returning this to Dennis on Thursday and buying my own copy today.