Scott Tannenbaum on the “Science of Teamwork”: HHP Directorate Innovation Lecture SeriesOn September 11, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
I just wanted to take the opportunity to open
here for just a minute or so. One of the things I want to do is, again, thank
Human Health and Performance for sponsoring
the Innovation Lecture Series that they had for a while because it certainly fits into all the
things that we have been talking about here at
JSC. Including JSC 2.0, which is about advancing
human space flight by looking at how we can do
things differently, and so any time we can understand how we can
perform our jobs more effectively, more
efficiently, and all in the goal of advancing human space flight.
That is what we are encouraging everybody to
do across the center. And of course I think this directorate has really taken the lead in a lot of areas in terms of
innovative tools, innovative processes, and
really trying to do things differently. So, that was probably the main thing I wanted
to talk about, but of course this is a very
interesting topic, I think, for all of us here at JSC because teamwork, team performance,
debriefs, lessons learned, all of those things are
just real–have always been and will continue to be very important for us. As we do operations,
we want to make sure we are learning from
everything that we are doing and carrying that forward and understanding how we can be more
effective. So, a very relevant topic for all of us. So, with that, I am going to hand it over to Jeff
Davis So, a few words about Scott.He is an industrial
organizational psychologist with over 25 years
as a practitioner leading the Group for Organizational Effectiveness, which he
cofounded in 1987. Through that group and his
work, he has worked with over 500 organizations globally, including more than 75
Fortune and Global 1000 companies, working
on teamwork. He has worked in a wide array of organizations which I think you will find
interesting. So, he has worked with medical
teams, aviation, finance, technology, research and development, customer service, and
So, a wide background. He has also been doing current work on
research in our space flight environment, which I
think you will find very interesting in a variety of different areas.
And, finally, he is a fellow of the Society for
Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a fellow of the Association for Psychological
He is coeditor of the book Developing and Enhancing Teamwork in Organizations:
Evidence-based Best Practices and Guidelines.
And just bringing it even closer to home, Scott worked with our Human Health and
Performance Group twice, which we found very
valuable for our teamwork understanding. So, without further ado and not cutting into any
more of Scott’s time, I will introduce Dr. Scott
Tannenbaum. Please, join me in welcoming him.
[ Applause ] I love getting applause before I even say
That is just a great way to start the day. I think everyone should start their day that way.
For the last three years or so, I have had the
good fortune of being able to do some research with people at NASA.
I am certainly going to share some of that
information with you. And, as Jeff mentioned, we have worked with a
lot of teams over the years, so I will also share
some of our experiences there, but to start I just want to give a quick thank you because our
three years of work that we have done would not
have been as successful if it wasn’t for the support of a lot of people and
certainly colleagues on the BHPHRP side,
including Brandon Vessey and others have been very instrumental in guiding us.
Early on, we had the opportunity to interact with
a number of subject matter experts who pointed us in the right direction. I think we would have
missed the target had we not gotten the
advice from some of the folks that you see here, including Al Holland and others.
And then we have had the chance to gather
data from HERA and NEEMO environments. we have gotten great support there as well, so
Mark Reagan at NEEMO and Yvonne Parsons
has been very helpful on the HERA side as well and I will share a little bit about that with you.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I did not
mention our research team, folks that have been working with us from my organization and
from University of Connecticut and University of
Central Florida. While I’m going to share with you mostly
applied practical sort of things today, I did just
want to let you know that this group has been working on trying to disseminate information
scientifically as well.
So, this effort sort of reduced a number of publications and we have got some other things
coming down the pipeline as well. Going to do
both the science and the practice side. OK. So, here is what I would like to do today.
Based on some of the experiences that we have
had in a wide range of organizations, I’m going to start by sharing five observations–
excuse me, four observations that we have seen
across many companies. Secondly, what I want to do is I would like to
share with you some of the underlying
psychological science. If I’m successful today, I would like you to know a little bit more about
what underlies team effectiveness and really tap
into the empirical research. What’s the data telling us really makes a
difference in driving team effectiveness, what we’ll call the seven C’s and I will share
those with you. Third, I will take a little time and share with you
some of the research that we have been doing
at NASA in the NEEMO and HERA environments and elsewhere.
And I want to leave some time at the end for
you to pose questions, I would be happy to answer those.
I will also foreshadow one punch line.
So, I’m going to tell you that you need to debrief more frequently.
You’re going to hear this a few different ways.
So, in the back of your mind, process that and when we get to the end I will show you a tool
and some methods that are associated
with that as well. Now, as we go through, I would like to
encourage you to conduct a thought experiment
and by thought experiment I mean I would encourage you to think about a particular team.
So, first of all, how many of you are on a team?
OK. That’s encouraging.
This would have been a very short session.
I would say thank you, we can go now. Any of you leading any teams, a project team,
work team at all?
Yep. OK. Any of you on more than one team?
Yeah, very common, right? So, I would like you to pick one.
Pick one team that you’re either a member of or
that you’re a leader of and as I go through and I share with you sort of what the science says
about teamwork, I would like you to think
how does what I’m saying compare to your team and where might there be opportunities to
boost your team’s effectiveness a bit?
Now, Jeff mentioned to you, my company’s called the Group for Organizational
Effectiveness and we work with a lot of different
types of teams. So, in addition the types that Jeff mentioned,
we have had a chance to work a lot with military
teams and medical teams. We have been out on some oil rigs and cruise
My team liked it when we got a project with the cruise ships.
They preferred that to the oil rig. I’m not sure
why. But, we have gathered data in a number of
places and we have worked extensively with
teams and that’s what I want to share with you today.
I want to start off with four observations based
on what we have seen across organizations. And the first observation is that there is a lot of
teams out there and there is a proliferation and
more teams. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, if
anything, collaboration requirements are
increasing rather than decreasing. When I asked you how many of you were on
more than one team, most of you raised your
hands. Now, the corporate executive board gathered
data from some 20,000 plus people and over
two-thirds of people in organizations report that collaboration
requirements are on the rise in their
organization. But, I also want to make clear though is I am
not here to advocate we need a team for
everything. I know I’m a team guy, but I’m not telling you
teams are the answers to everything. What I am telling you is you’re going to be on a
lot of teams.
Throughout your career you’re going to be on a lot of teams.
So, whether you like them or not, some people
love working on teams, some people hate it, it’s just important that we understand how they
work so we can get the most out of the
experiences with them. Second observation. We’re talking about this a
lot. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Google’s
Ngram system, but it counts the number of times words appear
in print on a decade by decade basis. We are talking about teams with an all-time
high. Interestingly, a little bump at World War II
talking about collaboration, but as you can see the trend. We’re talking about teams and there
are a lot of them. And although there is plenty of teams that are
out there, the bad news is– and I’m sure you
know this from your experience–that many, many teams are not as effective as they
could be. We use the euphemism suboptimal,
you know, but if you’ve been on a bad team experience, you know what that’s like.
And there is some data that shows that– this is
from Liane Davey– that over 90% of people in organizations recognize that teams are
essential to their organization’s effectiveness,
but less than a quarter of them think that their own teams are effective.
So, there is this gap there and this suboptimal
performance has a couple of obvious implications. It clearly has implications for our
business, for our organization. When our teams aren’t performing optimally,
then it’s going to affect business success.
But, in addition, from a personal perspective, if you’ve ever been on a poor-performing team,
what does that feel like?
It just drains you. Right?
There is a reason for that.
There is a psychological reason for that and the reason is that experiences that we have in the
presence of others is amplified.
So, if you’re eating a great chocolate bar, it tastes better when there is people around you.
And when you’ve had a bad team experience
and you fail, it hurts more than just failing alone. Second observation. Third one…the best
teams are those that self-adjust.
So, here is a second thought experiment. Not the team that you picked, but think about
the very best team you’ve ever been on and the
question is was that team great on day one. Probably not.
Very, very, very few teams are great on day one.
What makes teams great is that– their ability to be able to adjust over time.
Some teams do this naturally, but most teams
don’t. Even great teams need to be able to make
adjustments if they want to sustain their
success. The third observation.
And, finally, a lot of organizations talk about
creating a culture of collaboration. So, Procter & Gamble has gone on record of
saying we want to be the best in the world at
collaborating. Inside and out. And Microsoft did a full reorganization, driven
largely by their intent to try and increase
collaboration in their organization. So, while it’s easy to talk about collaboration,
it’s difficult to build a culture of collaboration if
our teams aren’t collaborating effectively. It starts at the team level. So, you know,
internally and then with our vendors and outside
suppliers and other organizations, but it starts at the team level. This is
particularly true with leadership teams. Any of you that are on leadership teams, you
know, be aware. I will share with you some data about how what
happens there permeates through the
organization. One way to think about this is every team
experience that you’re involved in, if it’s good,
it’s contributing towards building a culture of collaboration and when it’s bad, it detracts from
that culture. So, with these four observations in
mind, what I would like to point out is it’s critical for us to crack the code.
There is a lot of teams out there, some of them
aren’t working as well as we’d like to. We want to build a culture of collaboration, they
have to work well. We have got to crack the
code. And the good news is, in the last, let’s say 15
to 20 years, there is a growing body of empirical research that’s actually giving us some tangible
insights about what drives team effectiveness.
And that’s what I want to share with you. We refer to it as the science of teamwork. And
before I do that, though, let’s pose this
question. Because I just told you it’s hard, right? It’s not easy.
It doesn’t happen naturally.
You know, less than a quarter of people report their own teams as successful, so is it worth
And the data here is actually quite compelling. Jeff LePine and colleagues did a meta-analysis
of over 100 prior studies. I’m going to use that term meta-analysis a few
times, so if you’re not familiar with it, all it is is
we take all prior empirical studies that we could find and we statistically combine them.
So, we’re more confident in the results of that
than we would be any one study. So, in Jeff LePine’s work, they found the teams
that demonstrate good teamwork processes are
20 to 25% more likely to be successful. And there is some interesting data coming out
of the medical world.
We work a lot with medical teams, too. The Institute of Medicine discovered that one of
the primary causes for problems and sentinel
events in hospitals are teamwork breakdowns. To give you an idea about a sentinel event,
that’s like we perform surgery on you and we
leave the scalpel inside of you. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I think that’s bad.
And there is even some data that shows financially. You know, organizations that are
able to drive collaborative performance show
financial benefits. So, I think the data’s pretty clear.
You know, it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t happen
easily, but it’s worth the effort. What I’m talking about now, though, is true
teamwork. So, I’m not necessarily talking about whether
we like each other, although that’s good. I think it’s awesome to like your team members.
I think it’s great, you know, may occasionally go
to dinner together or do those things, but that’s not what drives team effectiveness.
There is other factors that drive team
effectiveness. When we get those right, that’s when we get
these payoffs that occur.
And I use the term team effectiveness a lot. Let me be clear.
I’m not talking about one shot, we succeeded.
What I’m talking about is sustainable performance over time.
That’s– when I talk about teams that are highly
effective, these are teams that are able to demonstrate sustained performance in terms of
results, terms of maintaining vitality,
and some of the research we have been doing here and elsewhere is about resilience.
Being able to bounce back because all teams
face challenges. The best teams are those that bounce back.
So, when I say effective teams, this is what I’m
referring to. Now, I want to pose this question because
before I start going into the research, the
answer to this question will– is important for interpreting the research that’s out there.
The answer to this is, of course not.
And yet, I go into many organizations and all teams are kind of treated the same way.
I went into a manufacturing organization, same
policies and guidelines for all teams. Teams differ in a number of ways, but one of the
key ways they differ is in terms of
interdependency. The extent to which people on the team have to
rely on one another to be able to get their work
done effectively. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to use a sports
analogy here to sort of illustrate this.
Ten different types of teams. We can think about them falling a long
continuum from low to high.
A team with low interdependency, this is a team that can prepare together and might be able to
train together, but when it’s
time to do work, when I’m actually performing my job, my task, I’m on my own.
Now, ultimately we add up the scores of
individuals and we figure out whether the team won.
Some sales teams are like that, right?
We call it a region, but really it’s 12 sales people, each out selling, at the end we add it up
and figure out if we made quota.
If we move along the continuum to medium, this is a team in which some team members need
to coordinate with other team members
periodically. Maybe not all the time, but certainly on some
And then farther to the right are teams that need to coordinate on a consistent basis and
they have a shared understanding of things.
So, ten types of teams. Soccer team.
Gymnastic team. Low.
What about a relay race?
A relay race is a classic example of medium. Individual punctuated by tight coordination.
If that coordination is handled wrong, the team
American football, basketball. Wrestling, clearly individual.
When I’m on the mat, you can’t help me.
We can train together, but once I’m on the mat, I’m on my own.
Baseball. Does this distinction make sense?
In soccer, if we don’t have a shared mental model, we can’t set the other team off side.
Imagine a football team that doesn’t know the
same play. Alright?
So, the key here–
[ Laughter ] Pick your team of choice, if you want.
Synchronized swimming, maybe the ultimate
example. If the toes are pointed different directions, the
It has to be coordinated all the time. The reason this is so important is that as you
move from left to right on the continuum,
teamwork, coordination becomes more important in predicting success.
There are some work teams– and I put teams in
quotes here–really all that’s needed is just not getting in each other’s way and being civil.
Because really it’s more a wrestling team.
But, if your team moves at all on the continuum, starting here to wrestling plus and over, you’re
going to require some coordination.
So, let’s go back to the thought experiment. You have your team in mind.
Where do you fall today?
Is your team operating more like a wrestling team, wrestling plus, baseball, baseball plus,
Where are you? And, equally important, should you be there?
You know, would you be better moving along?
I know in some senior leadership teams that I’ve been working with, almost consistently they’ve
been saying, you know, we need to move a little
bit left to right on this. OK.
This is important background before I talk about
the research itself. So, here is what the research reveals.
It reveals there are seven consistent drivers that
determine whether a team is going to be effective or not. Again, let’s do that thought
experiment. Have your team in mind as I talk
about the seven C’s. Where is your team on the C’s?
The seven C’s are this.
The first one is capability. Do I– do we have ample knowledge, skills, and
ability on our team to perform the task that we
have been assigned. The second is about mindset. We call it
cooperation. Attitudes. Do people on your team
want to be on your team? Third.
This is about the behaviors. This is at the heart of teamwork.
Are we behaving as a team? Fourth. Communication.
Both within the team and from the team outside
to others. Fifth we call cognition.
This is the extent to which people on your team
have a shared understanding about priorities, about sense of direction, about roles. Seventh we call coaching.
It’s really about leadership.We would have
called it leadership, but then we wouldn’t have seven C’s, that wouldn’t have been very good.
We use the term coaching, but it’s not just
about the leader, it’s about whether other people on the team also are demonstrating leadership
behaviors. And lastly, conditions. And my colleague Ed
Salas and I have been working in this space for
a while. Ed likes to say conditions may be most important because teams don’t operate in
a vacuum. So, what are the conditions in which
your team operates? What I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about
these seven C’s and share one or two research findings that may be of interest associated with
each of them.
Let’s start first with capability. Remember, this is about does your team have
the knowledge, skills, abilities, the capabilities
to be able to be successful. And sometimes in the movies you get the
impression that teamwork can overcome
anything. The Bad News Bears, you know?
They don’t have the talent, but somehow they still win.
In your work experience, does that really
So, let’s be clear and the data shows this.
If you have big talent gaps, it’s hard to be successful.
Teams do need competent individuals to be
successful. But, what’s very interesting is simply boosting
talent levels won’t always boost team
performance. It’s true on the left end of that continuum.
You add another star wrestler in an independent
task, they’ll be fine. But, the research shows that if you start looking
at above baseball team interdependency,
sometimes adding talent actually decreases a team’s performance.
The fourth star on an NBA basketball team
decreases that team performance. And very interestingly, you even see it in
Chickens. And I’m from the Bronx, so I don’t really know
much about chickens, but what I read is that if
you take another alpha rooster and put them in a hen house where there is already a
few roosters, egg production goes down.
So, it’s not always– because you need talent, I want to be clear, but it’s not always the
answer let’s just get another talented person on
the team. What matters very much are the other six C’s.
How the team works together.
And some very interesting data from the financial analyst industry where Boris
Groysberg and others have done work here–
we have actually done work with them as well. These are folks that make seven-digit salaries.
They’re stars in the ultimate sense.
Their supposed to be an analyst of an industry, the auto industry.
You take these folks and I see these
organizations who think it’s all about that person and they steal them from another
organization, on average, five year decline in
performance from that person until they’re back up to their levels.
Particularly true if their team doesn’t move with
them, because it’s not just about them, it’s about the people around them.
And particularly if they go to a place that has
less favorable condition. OK.
Matters, but it’s not the sole picture. Let’s talk about cooperation.
Remember, cooperation is about attitude.
One of the attitudes and mindset that really matters is something called collective efficacy.
We use that term as psychologists to mean the
belief that individual team members have that their team will be successful.
Not that I will be successful, but I believe that
my team will be successful. And what the research shows is that all things
being equal, teams with higher levels of
collective efficacy outperform other teams. Stan Gully and others published a meta-
analysis on this.
And when your team is all the way to the left, it’s about self-efficacy and self-confidence, but,
once you start getting a little more into
dependency, it’s a matter of having a belief that we can be successful. And I talk to teams
pretty regularly where I ask individuals do you
think you’ll be successful and they go yes. What about your team?
Eh, not so much. Those teams are at risk.
Now, I will share with you that I’m a Boston Red
Sox fan in baseball. Yes, I know. I’m from the Bronx and I root for the
Red Sox. You really don’t need to know
anything else about me other than that one fact. In 2012, they were the worst team in baseball.
On the start of the 2013 season, Dustin Pedroia
and a few of his teammates get in a taxicab who’s driving erratically and Pedroia says, hey,
buddy. Slow down. You’re carrying this year’s
World Series champions. He maintained collective efficacy, even when the
team wasn’t performing well.
Pretty impressive. If you’re following them now, this is the second
year in a row they’re doing badly. I wonder what their collective efficacy is today.
Maybe not so good. The second sort of cooperation or attitude that’s
of interest is collective orientation.
Collective orientation is– we sometimes use the word team player, you know?
They think team first, not me first. So, collective
orientation, people like being on a team. And the data shows, Jim Driscoll, Ed Salas,
and others have shown that collective orientation is in fact related to team
performance, in part because it improves team
interactions. But, here is my experience.
Not everybody on your team needs to be high in
collective orientation. You need enough.
Your team doesn’t have enough, you struggle.
Your team has enough, it sort of greases the skids a bit.
And some very interesting research coming out
of the Australian Special Forces. Their special forces are just like us in the U.S.,
very rigorous, you know, very difficult.
Individually demanding skill set. You want to know what one of the top predictors
they found of success in the Australian Special
Forces is? Whether people perceive themselves as team
players or not.
It out-predicted physical fitness scores and other cognitive ability scores.
This also helps dispel a myth, which is, oh, I
can either be a team player or I can be an individual success.
The data doesn’t support that.
You can be both. You can have the mindset that team matters
and still be an individual success.
And most of the cooperative attitudes like trust and respect and cohesion, they emerge from
the other six C’s.
So, I can’t make respect on my team. I can’t make trust.
We do the other six C’s right and those things
tend to emerge from it. So, let’s do our thought experiment.
Would your team benefit from some additional
capabilities either by bringing in somebody or maybe training?
If I asked all the people on your team, hey, is
this team going to be successful, what would they tell me?
And do you have enough of these team-oriented
people on your team? If not, those might be opportunity points.
Coordination. Coordination is about the behaviors that teams
Like I said, it’s at the heart of teamwork. I already shared with you Jeff LePine’s work that
shows that behaviors improve the probability of
teamwork success. Now, Michelle Marks and John Matthew from
our team and Steve Zaccaro have taken this a
step further. They did a nice job of sort of splitting out and
understanding the factors.
I could probably spend an hour and just talk about that.
But, what I will tell you is as you move from left to right on that continuum, these things become
And I just picked two to talk about today. I want to say a few words about back-up
behavior and about conflict.
Let’s talk back-up. What I’ve seen is that whether or not back-up
behavior, helping out one another on the team
occurs is a function of three things. First of all, do people– have I staffed my team
with people who have the ability to back-up one
How have I designed the team?
Secondly, have I trained people so they have the skills and they also– they understand where
they’re supposed to back-up.
Sometimes people don’t back-up because they don’t think they’re supposed to.
And the third piece is about attitude.
It’s beneath me to back-up. If I have people on my team that think that,
we’re not going to see support and coverage for
one another. Here is a true story.
I was flying from Albany, New York to Boston,
Massachusetts. I get to the airport, we’re waiting for the plane
and it’s a little nine-seat propeller plane.
And I’m dressed like this, you know, and I’m the first person to board the plane.
And there is one pilot and there is nine seats.
So, I jokingly ask the pilot, do you mind if I sit up front and
she said no, come on up.
Cool. Now you’re on the plane, you’re getting up
You look in the cockpit and you see, like, someone in a pilot suit and Scott.
How do you feel about that back-up?
And so I will tell you my attitude was awesome. So much that she had to keep saying things
like, oh, don’t touch that.
So, it’s not just attitude, it’s knowing when and when not and also having the skills.
Now let’s talk conflict.
Conflict is complex. Is conflict good?
Is it bad?
Depends. What does it depend on?
Well, first of all, it depends on what your team
is disagreeing about most frequently. If you reflect back on your team– alright, all
teams disagree about things.
Where are you spending your time disagreeing? This is from Frank De Wit and some of his
colleagues have discovered this.
If most of your time disagreeing is about interpersonal sorts of things, performance
declines when you have conflict.
If most of your time is spent on process things, tactical stuff, scheduling, things like that,
performance goes down.
But, when most of the disagreements are about the work itself, the task, then it depends.
Sometimes performance goes up, sometimes it
goes down. But, what does it depend on?
Bret Bradley from the University of Oklahoma
and others have shown that it relates to psychological safety.
We use that term to mean the extent to which
you can be yourself in a particular setting. When psychological safety is high on a team,
task conflict actually boosts performance.
When psychological safety is low, almost any conflict hurts the team.
So, that’s one factor that drives it.
The second factor is the way in which conflict is handled.
What the team’s style is.
And there is three common styles. This is from Leslie DeChurch’s work.
One style that we see in teams we’d call a
competitive one. We’re going to have to fight and it’s about
whose idea wins.
Well, no, not exactly. It’s about who wins. So, it’s really important that I win the arguments
here. You’ve probably been on teams in which that’s
the predominant mode.
In contrast, have you been on a team that’s been in avoidance mode?
Shouldn’t disagree because that’s bad.
We won’t like each other. But, let’s not voice our opinion.
Let’s be very careful about things.
This won’t surprise you, but those two don’t work particularly well.
The third style is more collaborative in nature
and it’s not that there is not winner– winning and losing, but it’s the ideas that win or lose,
not the people that win or lose.
And the goal is to come up with the best idea. And teams that adopt that style, which is we’re
not avoiding it, we’re engaging in it, but may the
best idea win and it’s fine. When they have conflict it boosts performance.
What about communication? Anyone here think
communication is not important? Right?
I mean it’s a fundamental premise of teamwork,
right? Very often when I say teamwork, you think
communication. But, what’s clear about the research is it’s not
always the case that more is better.
It’s not just we need to communicate more. It’s about the sharing of unique information that
drives team effectiveness and communicating in
a way that has closed-loop communications, meaning that both parties understand what’s
So, one thing you need to be careful about if this unique information sharing is really what
drives things is that people inherently tend to
assume that other people have the same information that they do.
In a study that was done, it took one participant
on a team, pulled them out, gave them some information and told them you’re
the only person on the team that has this
information, and yet when they put them back and watched the team, that person
almost inevitably did something or said
something that only makes sense if other people had that information.
Think about that.
They were just primed and they couldn’t avoid doing it.
Sometimes unique information isn’t shared
because people assume that other people already know it and so we have got to
really be conscious about drawing out that
information and for any of you that are on hierarchical teams, we see this in the military
and medical, but other hierarchical teams, the
leader really has to encourage this speaking up or else sometimes junior people won’t share
information that they have.
Here is a counter-intuitive finding. I was in Las Vegas.
Let’s say I was doing research on probability
theory. And I went to a restaurant called L’Atelier.
Very, very nice restaurant.
Has an open-kitchen concept where you can watch the kitchen staff.
And during the meal I’m watching and this
kitchen is quiet. Stuff’s flying out there.
And coordination without even saying anything.
Like one person’s working on their plate, they look and they see a little sauce stain over here
and they just take their–clear of the other
person’s plate. Humming. And partway through the evening, a group of big spenders come in and they want to order these
meals that are off the menu and truffles and all
sorts of things. All of the sudden they huddle up.
Someone comes out of the back.
The volume level increases. They figure out their plan, they get back to work
and quiet again.
So, it’s not always the case that it’s about more communication.
In fact, there is an inverted U.
Some of the most effective teams don’t talk quite as much as other teams do.
It’s about unique information sharing. OK.
So, let’s do– back to our thought experiment.
Have your team in mind. Members of your team know who’s supposed to
back-up and about when and what they’re
supposed to be backing-up about. Which of those styles, those conflict styles,
would typify your team and where do you spend
your time disagreeing about? What about your team sharing of unique
And is it possible that your team could do a better job of keeping each other well-informed?
Just process that a little bit. Let’s talk cognition. Remember, cognition is a
We like to use the term shared mental models. Research shows that highly effective teams
have shared mental models or having a– and we
could have shared mental models about a variety of things, like how a task gets
performed or if this problem occurs then what.
When we worked with oil rig crews, what we would do is we would take folks on the offshore
and on the ground here in Houston, video
connection and we would present scenarios and talked about what would happen if this occurs
for them to build the shared mental model about
ifs and thens. But, it can also be about where we’re headed
and who’s responsible for things and priorities.
This is why that quiet kitchen could be quiet. Because they had a shared mental model about
how things were supposed to be performed.
I watch surgical teams where the person’s handing the scalpel before the surgeon even
asks for it.
And in sports you see, like, you know, the ability to be able to do a blind pass in
basketball because I know that forward’s
going to be filling the lane. Good teams have shared mental models.
Now, a little deviation here.
I decided I want to include one very tangible sort of thing that I’ve seen in many, many, many
project teams and management teams.
So, if you take away only one tangible thing, this is the one I would like you to do starting
Be really clear when you’re in team meetings whether what you’re involved in is trying to make
a decision, whether you’re seeking input from
the people that you’re sharing the information with, or whether this is simply
I see this being a source of conflict on a very regular basis in teams.
You think it’s about a decision being made and I
think I’m just coming here to update you and I get annoyed that you’re querying things.
Just this simple thing seems to have a boost in
teams that we work with. OK.
Now, back to the regularly scheduled program.
Alright? Let’s talk coaching.
Look, we could talk about leadership for days.
I want to point out two things that we see from the research related to coaching.
And the first is what we refer to as servant
leadership. The research has started to show that when a
leader is perceived at least as part of the time
as a servant leader, you get some better results.
What you get are perceived fairness, trust, and
these– we call organizational citizenship behaviors.
Going above and beyond your job description.
Right? And what do I mean when I say servant
Well, here is the difference. A servant leader, the perception is that the team
members– the leader works for the team
members. My job as the team leader is to remove barriers.
Football analogy is I’m the offensive lineman.
Very often, though, the perception is that the team’s job is to make the leader look good.
That’s not servant leadership.
So, it’s not that it has to happen all the time, but when teams perceive some degree of
servant leadership occurring, you get better
results. Second finding that I think is really interesting
relates to shared leadership.
And I’m not talking about the official assignment of two or more leaders.
What I’m talking about is having members of the
team step up at times and demonstrate leadership behaviors.
So, you’re not the leader, but you coach
somebody on your team. You’re not the leader, but you give them
You’re not the leader, but you’re ensuring there is some accountability among other team
Teams that demonstrate a little bit higher levels of shared leadership tend to outperform others,
which is not surprising as we move
organizationally to teams that have flat– we have flat organizational structure, meaning the
leader can’t be available for everybody all the
time. And conditions.
The seventh C.
Teams do not operate in a vacuum. What happens around them makes a very big
And I told you earlier, it’s very interesting when we look at what happens at the senior level in
So, this study of over 60 top management teams I find fascinating.
In this study, when they took a look to see the
level which senior leadership teams were operating in a collaborative
manner, it would predict not only employee
satisfaction in the organization, but tangible retention levels.
What’s so interesting is that things are
happening behind closed doors, so you would think that what’s going on, you know,
among senior team members is not seen.
It doesn’t have to be seen. If the members of the senior team were not
collaborating, somehow that message gets
conveyed through the organization. So, for any of you that are sort of a little more
senior in the organization, it’s not just about
your team. What you do with your team has a ripple effect
to others throughout the organization.
OK. Do our thought experiment.
If I asked everybody on your team who’s
responsible for doing x, would I get the same answer?
There is a really important shared mental model
about roles. Is there any servant leadership?
Are people stepping up at times?
And then, lastly, do you have the resources you need?
And if not, is it possible to get some of those?
So, let’s go full-circle here. Seven C’s.
You were to focus attention on one or two C’s
for your team, which would be the ones that would both boost your team’s performance and
where there might be some capability of
making adjustments. That’s what I would like you to take away from
Alright. So, how do we effect the seven C’s?
Five times, five opportunities for being able to
effect the seven C’s. I’m only going to focus on one of them, but I do
want to mention what the five are.
First one is when we’re hiring people into our organization, are we hiring enough people with
That’s the first one. Second is, when we’re forming teams, do we
spend time to think about the mix of people and
not simply who’s available? Second.
Third, what are we doing to prepare leaders and
teams? Whether that’s about training or other sorts of
Fourth. How do we help them adjust? And, finally, rewards. If you want to ask me
questions about rewards, please do so at the
end. I won’t have a lot of good stuff to tell you. It’s one of the trickiest areas, but still one of the
places where we can either encourage
collaboration or discourage collaboration. But, let’s talk about adjustment. And the reason I want to talk about
adjustment– and when I’m
talking about adjustments here, I’m talking about teams engaging in constructive
conversations to allow them to self-adjust. Remember, the best team that you were on
wasn’t the best team on day one. It was the best team because it adjusted, but
that’s why this is one of the ones that I think is
one of the most powerful levers and the reason it’s so powerful is having
constructive team conversations can influence
any of the seven C’s. You might agree, you know what, we need to
bring someone in who has some skills that we
don’t have. That’s what’s missing from this project.
You might agree we have a difference of opinion
in terms of priorities; we need to talk about this because we’re getting in each other’s ways.
So, really want to encourage and the research
here is pretty clear. Chris Cerasoli and I published a meta-analysis
that shows that teams that debrief perform
about 20 to 25% better. It’s a very simple intervention, you know, to have
a structured debrief, but the impact, the benefits
are pretty high. And if you think 20 to 25% sounds high, which
it does for a very simple intervention, I want to
share with you in what we did with the U.S. Navy.
We taught perspective commanding officers
how to conduct debriefs. Love the Navy.
They let us randomly assign people to
conditions. Some people got our training, some people got
two more hours of technical training.
They were in simulated combat and the teams that had leaders who ran effective debriefs
outperformed the other teams by 40%.
Four-zero. That’s a massive number.
We taught them nothing technical.
Like I don’t know which end of a tomahawk missile you’re supposed to stand behind, which
does not make me popular onboard ship.
I can tell you that now. So, I want to encourage you, if, you know,
again, a key take-away here is I want to
encourage you to do some more of these debriefs and here is what I mean when I say
debriefs. I’m not simply referring to elaborate deep dive
after action reviews or after there is been a
major problem or once a project’s over. I’m talking about pausing periodically from your
work, doing a little bit of reflection on how we’re
working together, engaging in a discussion about what’s working and what adjustments we
need to make. Pick one or two things you want
to do a little bit differently. Agree to it and get back to work.
And this doesn’t have to be a day-long activity, but this periodic cycle helps teams be
Now, I’m going to segue here and talk about some of the research that we have been doing
at NASA and really a key focus that
we have had has been on debriefs. That’s the piece that I will focus on with you.
So, switching gears here now to talk about
some of the research we have been doing here and our grant has this title.
Has a lot of really good words in it.
I mean you got to like– who’s against composing
But, we did do some research in the composition area, but I want to focus on the
sort of self-sustaining teams.
Our primary focus was on long duration space. You know?
And innovations to be able to help with that.
But, secondarily, we have been asking ourselves as we go through this research what
are the implications for teams here on Earth? Is there any secondary benefits from it?
So, you know far better than I do, right, the
need in long duration space missions is different than in other missions.
So, it’s isolated, confined, extreme
environments with long communication lags with mission control, in very tight quarters.
All this means that crews doing long duration
space missions are going to be more autonomous, by definition, than any other prior
crews than we have ever had.
Right? And what that also means is that they’re going
to need self-management counter measures.
Things they can use on their own without ground being able to help them all the time.
That’s what our focus was on.
The other thing they need to do is they need to be able to sustain resilience.
Remember I talked about resilience, that ability
to bounce back. In the face of both acute and chronic stressors,
think about the two types of stressors as low
level stressors that might annoy you. You click your pen, you know, during the
meeting all the time.
Ugh. You know?
Or in a small, confined habitat, you know, your
definition of privacy may be different than mine. But, also to be able to deal with big stressor.
You know, when a big problem occurs.
So, this is kind of our focus. OK.
This is the need, what can we build in terms of
a counter measure? And we reflected on, you know, how useful
debriefs were in some of our prior work and we
thought what about a debrief capability that can be self-guided by teams themselves?
So, we conducted research on this team-led
web-based debriefing tool based on an architecture that we have.
We have put together a short training video that
goes with it. In our research, teams ran anywhere from one
to four debriefs during their life cycle and we did
publish some research on this. Now, the reason we wanted to do research is
because the prior research that was done on
debriefs did not deal with self-guided debriefs. It did not deal with isolated, confined
We were pretty confident that project teams would benefit, you know, from a good debrief,
but what about teams that are going to be in
these tight quarters, who have to sustain resilience?
So, what we did is we built something using
this DebriefNow architecture and the architecture itself we’d been using with military
and medical teams. We used it with the forward surgical teams
before they deployed to Afghanistan and also
with a variety of corporate teams, but in each case what we populated the tool with was
designed to fit the specific environment or
mission. Like if I say communication is important,
communication in a senior leadership team is
different than communication in an astronaut team or in a manufacturing team.
So, we can’t just ask a general question about
communication. It’s got to be targeted and you’ll see what we’re
trying to do here.
So, the way this tool works is they go online, they’re given a series of questions about their
team, it takes them three to four minutes.
They’re all multiple choice questions, they answer quickly.
The tool then produces a customized
discussion guide which is unique for each team. So, this team gets a different debrief guide than
the other debrief– than the other team does.
They use that to discuss what’s going on. They pick a few things to make adjustments on
and they move on.
In our research, we have been allowing them anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes.
You heard Jeff Davis say earlier that we worked
with his team. Jeff’s team also allowed– was willing to be sort
of guinea pigs to try this out.
With senior leadership teams, we might take an hour or 90 minutes with them.
The key thing that we tell teams when we
introduce this is that you own it. So, you can have a discussion– and this is true
for your teams, too.
You can have a discussion, but the team needs to own any agreements.
So, it’s not like, oh, because something showed
up in the guide we have to make a change. No.
You decide what changes you want to make,
which is why I think it’s well-received and why actually changes are occurring in teams that do
So, here is an example. This is one of the questions from when we did
research with NEEMO.
I will talk more about NEEMO, but this is an undersea group of astronauts undergoing
training and they were asked a question
about whether they were getting sufficient sleep because we know that that can drain resilience.
And based on their answers, that would target
what the team should talk about. Do they need to talk about this or not?
here is an example of one from our senior
leadership research that we did. This is an interesting one.
We asked the question the pace at which
you’re operating on, we found that a source of conflict in senior leadership teams is
when some people think the team is moving too
fast and some people think the team is moving too slow and it never gets articulated, but it
creates friction during meetings.
But, this surfaces it. Do we need to talk about our pace or not? In
one CEO team that we had, they agreed to do a
better job of triaging problems that came in. Do we need to take our time with this or not?
And then the team would get a sort of summary
guide like this. This is the, you know, sort of the screen they
see. They can see their high, moderate, and low
priority levels and then for any one that they
want to be discussing, the start with the highest priority, it gives them a screen that
looks like this.
One thing we found is not to give exact numbers.
Not 3.71 or 82% because then they debate
about the numbers. Instead what we do is we just give enough to
say this important.
Your team felt it was important. Hey, here is a big open-ended question.
Let’s start talking about it.
Let’s follow-up a bit. And then the last one is always a forward-
looking question. So, do we want to do anything
differently about it? And the team could say no.
On to the next one. When we did the research at NEEMO and
HERA, the types of topics that we focused on
fell into three categories. Resilience-related topics.
Teamwork topics and task work.
And these are all important. So, these are factors that are really important
for teams that are going to be working and living
together in confined spaces. Questions about privacy and meals and
maintaining connection with home when you’re
isolated. But, then there is also some of the classic
things related to the seven C’s and some things
related to specific tasks. Like in the NEEMO thing, their most recent
And, again, the content was revised to fit the particular missions.
So, I’m going to briefly tell you about some of
the results that we found in four different environments testing this tool.
And the first study we did was at a lab
environment. It was at the University of Central Florida.
It was really a chance for us to have very tightly
controlled conditions. It wasn’t realistic in the sense of it being folks
that are like astronauts; these were student
teams, but it was a space simulation and we could create a lot of need for resilience for
Forty-eight teams. Chance for us to refine things.
Up here, this is the little thing that tells you we
did sophisticated analyses, but I decided not to show you pages of little things with asterisks
and bullets on it. Instead, I cut through all the
stuff. This is what we found. Teams that debrief and teams that entered with
higher levels of efficacy was almost a surrogate
measure of capability,performed better. But, here is what’s interesting. The reason they performed better, it was all
predicted by going through resilience.
What happens is teams that had these sorts of discussions and had the ability, they were more
resilient, which in turn led to their performance
improving. Second thing we did.
We did a small usability study with three teams
here. Two leadership teams and one hardware team.
The focus was really more on is this something
that is perceived as credible, you know? It’s good that the research says it works, but if
people don’t find it a useful experience, they’re
not going to use the tool. So, this is just some data that we have.
Five point scale.
Yes, these teams felt it help uncover problems. They thought teams would benefit and since I
was actually running the debriefs on this rather
than the team, we asked them could we train leaders to do this and, as you can see, on
a five point scale, they’re saying yeah.
You know, four points there. But, then we did a series of studies in two
habitats that you have at NASA.
First of all, I think these are really great habitats for doing research.
Folks we worked with in both these habitats
were extremely supportive and I want to tell you a little bit about each.
Some of you, maybe many of you, are familiar
with the HERA habitat that exists here at JSC. This is a great place to conduct research on
You know, we’re able to put people in an environment that’s similar to what they might be
living on in a– on a planet during a long duration
mission. We can close the doors and when we did
studies with them we did a series of teams that
lasted seven days and 14 days and I understand next year it’s going to be up to 30-
day periods of time.
Eight four-person astronaut, like, teams. We gathered a series of data from them.
What was nice, too, is that we could make
some manipulations. So, we could change work levels on given days.
You know, we could sort of put some things that
test their resilience and delay communications. And for the teams that were in for one week, we
had them do two debriefs on days three and
five. Again, this says fancy analysis.
This is what we really found.
Here the effects were more direct. The debriefing tool and resilience both predicted
team performance, but one thing that we found
that I thought was really interesting, we found a moderator effect.
The time influences the relationship between
resilience and team performance. So, as a mission goes on, resilience is more
closely related to performance.
At the beginning of a mission, resilience and performance are unrelated, but over time we
have a loss of resilience, it will affect our team
in some way. And this has implications for long duration
missions because it’s not going to stop at day
six or day 14, right? We’re up on year three, resilience is likely to be
even more important.
Another thing that we wanted to make sure was that a good self-management tool should have
diagnosticity. It should be able to identify where
there is potential concerns. So, this is just at a glance.
We chose four teams from our research, ten factors, and you could see sort of the fact that
results were different on different days and for
different teams. What that means is that different crews need to
discuss different things at different times.
Right? And that’s– that makes sense.
So, whether it’s this tool or another tool, just
some way to be able to make sure that we’re guiding our teams to have conversations about
the right types of things.
Now let’s talk NEEMO. NEEMO is an undersea habitat.
Again, many of you might be quite familiar with
this, but it’s off the coast of Florida. About 60 feet below the sea, think about a
habitat that’s about 40 feet wide, confined
space. We conducted studies there with two crews.
One did a seven-day mission, one did a ten-day
mission. These are international crews of astronauts.
Here they are actually sitting around using the
tool. Depending on the length of the mission, we had
them do two or three debriefs and some of the
questions were about those resilience topics. You know, about sleep and food and privacy.
Others were about teamwork and task work.
And we gathered data from them and right off the bat I think what we really wanted to find out
here, since this is the target audience for future
missions, would they find this useful because if the astronauts don’t find this useful, it doesn’t
matter what the science says.
Alright? It’s got to be something that’s both acceptable
and empirically valid.
Very positive reactions and one really nice thing is that when the NEEMO 18 crew had a chance
to use this, they said afterwards is there a
possibility that we could also allow NEEMO 19 to be able to try the tool.
Which I thought was pretty encouraging.
In our five point scale, we’d get data from the various groups and pretty consistently positive
reactions from the folks.
Both analog environments. Here’s just a few thoughts from them.
A chance to be able to encourage people to
speak up. It’s a conversation starter.
Opening answering honestly, which I think is
really important. And, you know, look, when communicating with
ground is going to be a little bit of sort of
screening that takes place. This was an important one.
We find that one of the pitfalls in team debriefs
is that maybe not spending time on the important things. And then some comments
here about the missions. My favorite quote I did
not put up here was one that said is there a family marriage version of the tool? You know,
to make sure that we– the soccer pick up
schedule is handled properly. So, I want to share with you based on all of
that, a couple of things looking forward to the
future. So, in space, a few things we found.
It’s going to be really important to allocate time on the schedule for the crews to be able to do
their own debriefs.
It’s not going to happen naturally. They all like it, but they all– this is from them.
They told us please make sure that there is
time allocated in the schedule and allow some time for us to talk amongst ourselves.
That’s very important.
Third. The content can’t simply be on task work.
we have got to guide them towards things about
resilience and things like that. They may not naturally talk about privacy, but if
they talk about it early enough and deal with it
early in the mission, it’s not going to be a problem.
And they suggested more frequent ones at the
beginning and then less frequently. And they also said is it possible for crew
members to be able to trigger their own.
Hey, we have been out for a while, we think maybe it’s time to huddle up and have a
Here, on Earth, probably should be trying to ensure that astronauts are doing some of this
sort of self-debriefing, self-management stuff
here. So, having them lead some of their own
But, here is the real take-away.
I just want to encourage you.
You don’t need this tool.
I mean the tool’s great. There is other tools that are out there.
What I really want to encourage you, those that
are on management team, project team, R&D teams, et cetera.
Just get in the habit of periodically huddling up
and conducting these debriefs. The DebriefNow tool is one.
Some of you may be familiar with Team
Dimensional Training, there is other tools that are out there, but what I
would suggest is there just needs to be enough
structure around this. So, it’s not just at the end of projects and it’s
not just let’s get together to discuss.
Make sure you put a little bit of structure to your effort.
So, final words.
Three take-aways. Teamwork matters and it won’t necessarily
happen on its own, so we need to spend some
time and focus on it. There is some science out there.
Let’s focus on the things that matter.
And you probably could have predicted this one. OK?
At this point I would welcome any questions
that you might have related to teams, teamwork, teams you’re on, et cetera.
[ Applause ]>>Let’s see if this is on.
So, we wanted to leave the last 30 to 45 minutes for a Q&A session.
I know some people came ready with
questions, so please don’t make me stand up here awkwardly.
Ask your questions.
Raise your hand and I can get you the mic.>>Thank you.
Can you describe how the debrief compares to
the classical lessons learned?>>Yeah.
So, most lessons learned review occur at the
very end of something. We have gone through the experience, we have
completed a project, we have completed a
mission, we have done something and we want to huddle up and figure out what lessons can
we take away from this.
Now, those are useful. You know, the military calls them after action
The very end. That’s the good news, they work pretty well.
The bad news is that it’s too late to make
adjustments during the mission at that point. Right?
And very often what happens is they go in a
binder and sometimes those binders go up on a shelf someplace and the next team may not
have access to them.
So, when I talk about debriefs, that would be an example of a debrief, I wouldn’t say that’s not a
debrief, but what I want to encourage is not just
those. What I want to encourage is on a periodic
Like for project teams, we should do a debrief, you know, a couple weeks in.
Before we even get too sort of entrenched in the
way we’re operating, how’s it working? Any quick adjustments?
I would want to do a debrief at the midpoint at
the project because research shows something changes in terms of team dynamics at
And then maybe then an after action review or lessons learned at the very end to see their
take-aways for future projects. So, a real key to the debrief is that it has to be
relevant and it has to resonate with the team.
So, this is why sort of asking generic questions doesn’t seem to work as well as asking very
Whenever we build the questions for this, we work very closely with subject matter experts.
So, we built, you know, a debriefing tool for
manufacturing teams at Frito Lay. We spoke to the folks that were experts in
packaging and processing.
Where are the potential breakdowns, you know, which–they may be based on the seven C’s, but
when we talk about communication in a
packaging team, what’s it about? So, when we built this out for HERA and
NEEMO, we talked to the folks that were very
familiar with the mission, got their input from it and then what we’ll typically do–
and I encourage you in any debriefing tool that
you use, you speak to the experts, you draft it, you put it back to them and you say
does this make sense.
And then the real test for us is– in a tool like ours is does it prioritize them properly? So, the
reason we did all this usability testing is to say,
OK, it guided you to talk about privacy first. Did that make sense?
You know, it guided you to talk about EVAs, did
that make sense? And that’s sort of the second validation and at
that point we feel like we’re pretty confident in
the content.>>I have an additional one, too.
Sorry, real quick. Just to tag onto that, can you speak a little to
the balance of task work type questions in the
debrief versus more the teamwork as you were talking about in your–
Yeah. So, if I leave teams alone, I put them in a room,
and I go we have allocated an hour and we’d like
you to just huddle up and discuss how things are going.
Have a conversation.
Engineers will talk about tensile strength. Doctors will talk about, you know, the patient’s
Right? Finance people are going to talk about whether
they hit the numbers or not.
Teams don’t naturally gravitate to talk about teamwork-related things.
Someone doesn’t say did we back-up at the
right time, are we sharing the right information. You know?
Are our priorities clear?
So, I think it’s important to have a balance and, you know, when I lead debriefs, it just requires a
little more effort on my part to focus the team
on teamwork-related things because they’re naturally going to bring up the task work,
but I think a balance is appropriate.
It’s perfectly appropriate. In fact, it’s useful to engage in conversations
about a particular event that occurred and how
we handle it. That’s very much about task work.
Like the EVA questions. Very much about a particular task.
Or if we want to explore why a certain problem
occurred, that’s about the task. But, I think what I would encourage you is to
make sure that if you’re allowing it to happen
naturally, what you’ll probably need to do is be sure there is someone in the room, a team
member, a team leader, whatever, that says,
hey, let’s talk about some teamwork-related things as well and not spend our whole
time just on task work things. That’s where the
comfort zone is. Yeah. So, my point of comparison is when I’ve run
them just with me there versus when there is
the tool there. And you can run into a challenge in either of
those cases. I mean probably the biggest thing
is if a leader really, really, really doesn’t want to do this, it’s very difficult to be able to run
debriefs effectively, right? But, the other thing is, yeah, you can run into a
group that takes a little bit longer to warm up. I find that the warm up occurs a little bit faster
with the tool because people have already thought about it and weighed in and they’ve
done it anonymously. This is a really important
point. When they answer those questions, they don’t
put their names in. So, this topic makes it to
the top. It’s one that a lot of people think
it’s important, sometimes all it takes then is
one person to say, yeah, I thought that was a
concern and all of the sudden you see the flow in, but you’re absolutely right.
Different teams have different dynamics.
We just used the tool with a half a dozen teams in Hong Kong. You know, I was participating
remotely, so I gave a talk remotely and then
there were six teams. What was really interesting is that these teams
were cross-cultural teams. So, much in the way our astronaut crews are
international, this was a– these teams were
made up of people, half of whom were from Israel and half whom were from Asia.
And you want to talk about cultural distance in
terms of style, there were style differences there and there was no facilitator.
So, someone from the team was the one that
ran the sessions and the feedback we got was that actually it’s the first time in a while they
had open conversations.
And I think it’s because they first had a chance to think and weigh in.
You know, and introverts tend to process things
a little bit first. So, you come to a thing where you all huddle
up and ask the question how are things going
and the biggest extrovert in the room goes well, let me tell you 42 things that I’ve seen.
And by the time the introvert’s ready to go, it’s like OK, great.
Let’s go. So, oh, I did not have the chance.
Research shows and Kim Jentsch from UCF has some data on this that shows that the best
debriefs are those in which a higher percentage
of the team members participate in the discussion.
So, you’re onto something important there.
If you’re a team leader, you have to ask, you have to draw things out a little bit and
sometimes you can say what do
you think or what do you think about that. Yeah.
So, I think, ideally, teams should get in the
habit of doing a series of them and in part because of just what you described.
You know, if we haven’t done them a lot– alright,
I’m on a team, we haven’t done these before, we starting to do this, some things are starting to
surface, it’s kind of interesting. We may not get
a chance to touch on all these things. And very often, in fact, what I will do is I will
leave some materials behind when I run them so that a team can have their sort of own
discussion– their own discussion continued
afterwards. So, I do think those sort of over time make
What we found in some of the research we did with crews that were together for 14 days or for
long periods of time, we had to start varying the
content. So, it wasn’t going to be the same questions on
day three, five, seven, and nine.
On day seven we started asking some questions about connection to family and
disconnect and as we were thinking about this
with long duration space crews we thought we need to have a pool of items, some of which will
be more appropriate at different points in the
mission. I think that’s also true with leadership teams.
I’ve done these both ways. With some leadership teams, we ask the same
questions and we were able to do a check to
see if there is progress. And in other teams it’s like less introduce a
couple of new things into this next set and see
whether it’s something worth talking about. But, I do think you get more benefit if it’s part of
an ongoing– again, regardless of the tool you
use, just to periodically do the check ins. They don’t have to be long, elaborate, but follow
up to the conversation you had probably would
be worthwhile.>>OK. I had a couple questions emailed to
me, so I know we’re kind of going the debriefing
path, so I’m going to throw a wrench. We’re going to utilize you as the team expert
that you are. One emailed question to me was asking about
what do you do if you are on a team with
individuals that are essential at the same level as you, but the competency isn’t there and
so in meeting deliverables or tasks, certain
individuals are pulling their weight more than others and it’s causing dissention and kind of
tension, but it’s a difficult topic to address. What are your thoughts on how to approach
something like that?>>So, first of all, that’s probably a very rare
occurrence.I can imagine that none of you–
[ Laughter ] Have ever experienced a team where some
people were contributing more than others.
So, you know, like any good detective, I think we have to sort of sort through the clues to
figure out what’s going on. So, I’m asking
myself as I think, which of the seven C’s. Right?
So, is this a capability question?
I mean sometimes you see people who aren’t carrying their weight because they don’t have
the skill or the expertise to be able to do the
job. It’s a bad fit, right?
And it’s as frustrating for them as it is for others
on the team. But, other times it may be more about the
mindset and are people willing and able to sort
of step up and do what they need to do. Do they believe it’s important?
Do they believe in the mission?
Right? And then I ask the question is it one person, is
it two people, or is it the majority of the team?
One thing we have got to be careful about is I don’t like using team interventions to deal with
one person. We do this sometimes, if I’m being
honest, we do this sometimes as a copout because we’re afraid to confront the person.
Rather than having a frank conversation and saying, hey, you know, you’re not getting it
done. Let’s talk about what’s getting in the way. Why are you not, you know, getting some of the
work done you need to get done?
And dealing with them one on one. We have a team discussion about what’s going
well and everybody in the room’s waiting.
You know? Are we going to– is that person going to be
called out or not?
So, in some cases, the answer is it’s a one on one conversation.
Now, if you tell me that it’s over half the team, that’s a more systemic question.
We have got to figure out what’s getting in the
way. It could even be a cognition issue, right?
Where some people aren’t aware of their roles
or the priorities? So, it appears to me like you’re not carrying
your weight because your priorities are different
than my priorities. I see this with over half the team, then we
definitely need to huddle up and talk about it.
And in this particular team you describe, you talked about it as being, you know, fairly similar
in level, but if there is a leader, there is some
coaching responsibility there as well. It’s not always going to be the team self-
correcting the team.
So, you know, remember the slide about the
degree of interdependency? Well, first of all, your Tour de France example is
a great one.
It’s a– boy, talk about interdependency. You know, for anybody who’s sort of an
untrained observer, it can look like it’s an
individual bicycle race. It’s as far from an individual bicycle race as
You can take one of the best riders in the world, similar to those financial analysts, and plug
them on another team and if they don’t have
good supporting cast around them, that person will not win the race next time. Right?
The current winner would not win on an inferior
team. So, when I think about interdependency, right,
we’re talking about interdependency within the
team. And in the case of Tour de France, what that
competition does is it actually ups the ante for
everybody. That’s fine.
And there isn’t interdependency between them. Other than driving recklessly, what your team
does and what my team does, they’re not really
dependent. You know?
You could drive fast or slow, it’s not going to
help me. It might motivate me, but inside an organization
it’s different and what you’re starting to describe
is the concept of team of teams where it’s not simply the case that I’m on my team and
that’s it, but I’m on a team and you’re on a team
and you’re on a team and to the extent there is some interdependency, that competition which
might appear healthy in other cases gets in
the way. So, what we have been starting to advocate in
those environments is it’s great to huddle up
your own team. It’s great to huddle up your own team and
engage in debrief discussions, but if we really
need to have cooperation with a secondary team, then we need to sometimes huddle up
with them as well.
And that’s true even if you think about ground crew and, you know, a flight crew.
They each have their own. They should be having their own discussions,
but periodically there is got to be the bigger
circle drawn. And if we don’t, we don’t create any context for
those teams that are both competing and need
to collaborate. The natural tendency to compete is going to win
out and that’s where the problem occurs.>>I had another email question. I promise
these are just not my questions.
Somebody asked–>>And I would like to report that I did not email
them either, so–
[ Laughter ]>>Another question that was sent to me was
asking about–and I was– so, now in the context
of your presentation, the team maybe is well selected, so kind of different from the
last scenario I gave you and there is a high
motivation, but some of those conditions, the C– the– one of the seven C’s isn’t there.
So, you have a very highly motivated team,
maybe the leader isn’t as receptive to using some of these strategies or the organization
doesn’t provide the resources or the team just
doesn’t feel supported that way. What can a team do in that situation to
continue to thrive?>>Yeah, let me differentiate between two– let
me differentiate between the coaching C, right,
when it’s about the leader, and the conditions C when it’s about the resources, the environment,
On the conditions side, one of the things I try and coach teams about is we need to be clear
about our negotiable and non-negotiables.
Right? And also, you know, I like to talk about there
being over three zones.
You know? There is a zone of control that we as a team
can simply decide we’re doing this differently.
We don’t need anybody’s permission. Great.
That’s like the blue zone.
Right? And there is a middle zone where we can’t
control it, but there is a chance we can
influence this and that’s kind of the yellow zone.
And then there is the red zone.
And the red zone are those things that we can neither control nor influence and it’s really
important to be able to be aware of those
distinctions. It’s important from a personal health perspective
because, incidentally, spending a lot of time in
the red zone is physically debilitating. Research has been done with adolescent girls
and lately been extended to older humans and
systemic inflammation levels go up, which is related to a lot of diseases, when you spend too
much time in that red zone.You’re unable to let
go of unattainable sorts of things. So, the first is let’s be aware.
The second is let’s– the things that are in our
blue zone, let’s just do it. You know?
And then let’s figure out those things we can go
after and request and that’s that yellow zone. And I think as a team sometimes it’s worthwhile
saying what are we lacking and let’s put together a compelling business case and
But, let’s be clear. If it’s in the yellow zone, just because we put
together a good case doesn’t mean we’re going
to get it. Right?
And then when members of the team come
back and keep referring to things that are in the red zone– have you ever had this experience on
There is someone that keeps going back and bringing up those things that you know you
can’t do anything about?
It’s like– of course you haven’t. So, it’s like the software has been delivered to
us and it has bugs in it.
Well, first of all, one thing I can tell you, any of you that have done technology work know that
all software have bugs.
As a psychologist, I will tell you all people have bugs, so it’s just natural.
But, you know, it’s– so it’s– so we’re looking at the software and we have been told there’ll be
no corrections made to this for the next three
months. And then at each meeting somebody on the
team comes and goes I can’t believe the bugs
on the– we got to get these bugs fixed. You know?
Like what does that do to the energy in the
team? It’s like wah-wah. You know? So, on my team we have what we call the 24-
hour wallow rule. You can try this at home, too. The 24-hour
wallow rule goes something like this. If you’re
having a problem, you’re having a bad day, something’s going wrong, if you come to
anybody on our team, we will be extremely
supportive for 24 hours. And then we’ll ask you two questions.
Is there anything you can do about it and is
there anything I can do to help? And if you say no and no, we’ll say LIG.
Let it go.
And I will tell you, it’s a lot better to say it than to hear it, but I’ve been both the giver and the
recipient of that and I think in teams it’s really
important to focus attention on those things. Blue and yellow and have the discipline not to
get stuck too much in the red.
The second part of your question, which was 24 minutes ago, dealt with the leadership aspect of
it and this is a little bit tougher.
So, if I am on a team and my leader doesn’t get it. It’s hard because it’s clearly not a blue zone
issue. There is things that only the leader can
do and I can’t do them. It’s a yellow zone issue to the extent that I can
try and influence my leader to do some things
differently. I sometimes see teams that are able to be
effective when they start sort of demonstrating
some of the coaching C’s themselves. So, if my team leader isn’t going to be able to
help us in certain ways, can we rally up and do
our own coaching and give our own feedback and do our own job of trying to generate some
resources and support that working for a difficult
leader–and any of you who have been in your career for a long time have had this experience
at some point. Hopefully not currently.
That’s a little bit tougher one and I really look at what can we huddle up and do as a team and
how can I possibly give some constructive
feedback to my leader. So let me– so the first one’s about multi-team
systems and the second one’s about timing as
to when you introduce a debriefing tool. So, we did some research in the medical world
and this is military medical.
So, remember the TV show MASH? Yeah, so there is a modern version to that.
You know, the research shows that you have
like what they call the golden hour and in combat situations you need to keep wounded
people alive for an hour.
That’s kind of a critical window and when you do that your mortality rates go down tremendously.
And so what starts happening is the military
starts putting medical facilities nearby. Closer to the action so we’re able to treat
wounded soldiers faster and closer to the
action. So, they’ll set up these sort of tents, you know,
And in some cases, what will happen is if something bad happened, they have mass
Right? Where multiple people are coming in at once.
So, what they really are is they are a multi-
team system and there is these multiple places inside the tent that people can be treated.
And some of it’s individual people being treated,
you know, soldiers being treated independently, in other cases it’s handoffs that need to occur
from one station to another station around this.
But, they need to be able to maintain sort of a shared mental model about some things.
So, back to your question earlier about how do
you get the content right. What we had to do in that case is figure out
where are the interdependencies.
So, there are certain things that everybody in the big tent needs to know.
They need to be maintaining an awareness of.
There is other things that only the people on my little table here need to be aware of.
We need to know whether this patient has
allergies. More collectively, we need to know what
resources are available and whether it’s
possible to move the patient off to someone to sort of a higher level of medical
But, when I start becoming aware of those interdependencies, it gives me some insights
about how we should be handling both
development on the training side and also the debriefing process.
But, having a large group debrief where most of
the conversation are about things that are really about the small teams, it’s just a frustrating
experience for everybody.
So, we do some of the larger group things, the system of teams, but we do it around things
that are relevant to all the groups.
So, you’re not simply fodder. You know?
Let’s wait our 45 minutes until we can talk
about us. We might split off and have some conversations
about the small things and then we might talk
collectively about things like, you know, where were the bottlenecks in this case?
It’s important to everybody under the big tent.
So, if you can use that as an analogy, if you will, for other sorts of settings.
I think that same mindset can be applicable. So, this– this now is about the question of size,
too. You know?
I mean there is some research that shows, you know, when teams get very large that it’s
difficult to be very effective. Having said that, the team size has to be as
large as it needs to be. There is some instances where I can’t have a
quote ideal team size from the research.
We need 30, 40 people. The problem is trying to do a debrief discussion
with 30, 40, 50 people is quite difficult. What we have done in one environment is we
get data from everybody and then we take
representatives from the team. They engage in the discussion and there is
feedback back to the group. They say we agreed to these sorts of things, is
everybody comfortable with it? Another way of doing that at times is to get the
And really it depends on the situation. So, if the shared mental model that needs to be
in place is a shared mental model among the
leaders of the various stations, then they’re the perfect group to do the debrief
together and then they can choose what needs
to be disseminated to their teams because everybody on the team doesn’t need to know
this. Sometimes that’s appropriate, too.
But, part of the message is it’s not one size fits
all. It’s about sort of fit for purpose based on
interdependency and the requirements of the
team. And the second question was about timing.
So, I can only debrief about experiences if my
team has experiences. So, it’s hard for me to do– I can do a pre-brief.
We could talk about how we might want to do
things. We can do a pre-brief where we talk about if
certain things happen, what do we want to do.
I can establish a team charter. There is research that shows that team charters
actually are pretty effective.
Helpful tool in some ways. But, to do a debrief on how we’re working
together, we have had to at least spent some
time working together. So, that’s why I say kind of a rule of thumb for
me for project teams is I want to get them
together once before they calcify. You know, they’ve got to be together long
enough so that we have something to discuss,
but not so long that we’re set in our ways. And for a team that works daily, that might be
two or three days into a project.
For a team that meets weekly, it might be at the end of week two or week three where we
have that initial conversation.
But, before the team every works, I would call that more of a pre-brief, which can be an
effective intervention, too. Yeah.
So, you’re right.
So, first of all, you know, beyond maybe a dozen people, it’s hard.
And many of you have had that experience.
It’s hard. And there are circumstances where we have no
choice, we need to be larger, but I also– I want
to think creatively here, which is that there is teams that are like this is my core team and
then there is other people on the team. And
most of you are on more than one team as well. So, think about a solution in which we have our
core team and it’s eight people, it’s ten people,
but we have times in which we invite other people in.
And they’re like the cousins in our family, you
know? You know?
They’re not nuclear family, they’re cousins, you
know? And the cousins add creativity and we bring
them in and it may just be one person has a
sort of a point of view that’s different than anybody on our team has, but I don’t need
to necessarily anoint them an official team
member each time, because that’s when you sort of get that creep occurring.
It’s like bigger and bigger and bigger and at some point it becomes unwieldy. My email address is
You can reach out to me. I have a blog that also has some information on
things, what I
write about the seven C’s. Ed Salas and I are starting to write a book.
That’ll be source of resources as well. But, you know, I will– I’m happy to take
follow up from people if you want to send me a note.
As you can tell, I like talking about this stuff. Fantastic.
One more round of applause. [ Applause ]