The Teamster

Exploding the truisms of teamwork.


Course: Managing Teams for Innovation and Success

When: June 5-10 (deadline: May 9)

Instructors: Margaret A. Neale (faculty director), Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Robert I. Sutton, and Gregory B. Northcraft

Class size: 35-50

Where: Stanford University

Cost: $7,900

Mission: Giving you a blueprint for managing effective teams and for being a star team member.


Despite what your high school gym teacher taught you, there is an “I” in “team” . . . Only the self-aware can alter their behavior to avoid dysfunction . . . Cliques — long considered a cancer on team morale — can be useful in busting through impasses. This Stanford course is full of such unconventional wisdom intended to give you a greater understanding of group behavior. “The truth is, people don’t think systematically about how to make a team function well,” says course instructor Margaret A. Neale. “There’s lots more to successful team performance than getting into a group and doing the work.” Being an effective team member is good preparation for leading one, so there are plenty of clever exercises such as a videotaped murder-mystery game that reveals how much of a help or a hindrance you are when it comes to solving problems. Complicating matters, the course replicates everyone’s complaints about decision making — not enough time, limited data, and rigid deadlines for results — in an effort to draw out group tendencies and set up lessons for better group management. New to this course is a half-day workshop at design firm Ideo on best practices in sustaining an innovative culture.

Student evaluation: Rob Lisanti, a business operations manager for Cisco Systems in Europe, took the course last summer to enhance his people skills in preparation for a new team he’d be leading. He’d previously been prone to hiring people like himself to make life easy. “I’m now aware of the danger [of recruiting one’s own likeness], and expect the people who work with me to come prepared to challenge current thinking,” he says.

Want to go?

Can’t go? Read Groups That Work (and Those That Don’t) (Jossey-Bass, 1990), by J. Richard Hackman.