Way back in 1995, I had the great pleasure of seeing the legendary management sage, Peter Drucker, speak about teams and teamwork at a conference for training industry executives.
Keep in mind the context of that now bygone era: CD-ROM was the latest, sparkly new technology, the internet was essentially a network of electronic brochures downloaded via modem to your computer at the rate of a millennium per page and The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith, first published in 1992, was all the rage in management circles.
“Everybody’s always asking me about the best way to build a team,” said Drucker in his thick, German accent. “But it’s just a silly question, really, because it assumes that all teams are alike. But they’re not. A baseball team is different from a football team is different from a tennis doubles team. You have to have the right team structure for the business and challenge.”
That had never occurred to me before, but it seemed so obvious after I heard him say it: Build your team structure to best suit your business need and be willing to tear it down and start over with a new structure as the needs change — and change they will.
Here we are 20 years later, living in a technological world more globalized, interconnected and mobile than even the venerable Peter Drucker could have imagined, and new kinds of teams — driven by new media, challenges and opportunities — are sprouting up every day: virtual teams within a global company and project teams composed of people from different companies who may have never met in person. We’re working in what some have dubbed a “freelance economy,” where it is no longer necessary to have a company or formal team in common in order to work together to accomplish a project.
So, what do you think? In this brave, new world, do the “old” principles of leadership and team-building still apply?