Simple Rules and Management Teams

In the final in his three part podcast series with Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Donald Sull, Associate Professor of Management Practice in Strategic and International Management, speaks with the Stanford University Professor about what makes good management teams. Eisenhardt begins this podcast by stating that in her opinion the most useful metaphor about teams for managers is a basketball team because the teams are fast moving, fluid and if they’re good they score. Eisenhardt builds on this by explaining that good teams, like basketball teams, are relatively small, highly differentiated with a variation of experience. Eisenhardt elaborates that the best teams are able to make decisions quickly, are able to handle conflict and can walk out of a meeting room and be ready to execute their ideas, while still liking each other. She points out that one of the challenges of conflict is to ensure that the conflict is about an issue and not any individual person. Eisenhardt suggests that this can be achieved by staying focused in the data and also by developing multiple alternatives which can depersonalise conflict and encourage creative decision making. On a lighter note, Eisenhardt points out the importance of humour and how encouraging an environment of fun and good humour puts people in a good mood and they become more co-operative. If conflict does arise, it is important to be able to cut it off and Eisenhardt suggests introducing some simple rules. For example teams could include a rule limiting the number of meetings about a particular issue or a rule that defers the final decision to a particular leader if there is difficulty in reaching a decision.

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