A recent Harvard Business Review article in the December 2013 edition entitled “The Hidden Benefits of Keeping Teams Intact” discussed the benefits and reasons for keeping teams familiar with each other. The article expresses that team familiarity raises performance; leads to fewer mistakes, encourages better decision making, etc.
So how does this apply to us? In our role of BCM, we deal with a number of different teams including Fire Life Safety, Crisis Management, Business and IT Recovery Teams, etc. Maintaining familairity consistency across team members is difficult as existing team members leave and new members arrive.
In my experience, I agree with this article as I can the say that the performance of Crisis Management Teams who have worked together for a number of years or at least have some familiarity is much higher than those who do not have familiarity and/or long term working relationships. So what data substantiates this theory:
- Defense – Special ops teams such as the Navy Seals are kept intact over many years.
- Aviation – NASA found that fatigued but familiar crews made about half as many errors as rested but unfamiliar teams.
- Surgery – A study of surgeons who worked across multiple hospitals found performance varied perhaps because of their varying levels of familiarity with the OR teams.
In our consulting firm, we have a high degree of familiarity as the majority of us have worked together over 10 years. This familiarity has led us to a high level of performance as we are clearly versed in each others strengths, weaknesses and areas of expertise.
So, how do we make this work? We can’ t keep team members forever; however, we can work teams to have some level of familiarity which is better than none at all. Hold short training and awareness sessions, short 30 minute mock disaster exercises, etc.