Collaborative Intelligenge






Richard Hackman is Harvard professor Social and Organizational Psychology and one of the most acclaimed authors on team effectiveness.


I read Collaborative Intelligence as a parallel read to Wisdom of Teams. There is a lot of overlap, still it is worthwhile to read them both. The most important add on is that Wisdom of Teams does not talk about team coaching and this book does.

This book focuses on teams in intelligence (CIA, FBI, etc.). That gives some interesting insights. Although I might not mention it anymore, please keep it in mind when reading this essay.

For me the most important learnings are:

–        What to focus to improve team effectiveness

–        the most important drivers of a team

–        the role of the team coach


What is a (real) team (by Katzenbach)?

KS define a team as follows: a small group of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually responsible.

Follow the strategy of offense

Hackman compares teams in the defence and teams in the offence. It is 100% clear that teams in the offense have the advantage. Reason is, these teams have a clear goal which binds the team together. So, I of the large lessons in this book, choose the offense if you want to build a high performance team. In case the goal is defensive Hackman proposes a work around to rebuild the task in an offensive one. Think of defence as a strategic pause.

How to build a team/ Interdependence

Hackman notes the strong danger of stereotypes (woman, rank, position, background, etc). He adds that recent research seems to point in the direction that conflict does not make a team stronger but weaker (although at the same time he also explains dislikes between team members do not need to make the team weaker). His advice: organize joint activities about which the whole team cares about. Here he gives an example of a sportscoach who –as a preparation for a tournament in Turkey- asks the team to analyse the culture, musea, etc of Turkey as a joint prepapration. Interdepence is the key, as it is for Katzenbach.

Team effectiveness

Hackman uses the following 3 criteria on team effectiveness. He mentions that teams should be effective on all 3 criteria, otherwise a team can never be effective:

  1. 1.     The productive output of the team meets or exceeds the standards of quantity, quality, and timeliness of the teams clients – that is the people who receive, review,  and/or use the output. -> it is the clients’ standard and assessments that count in determining team effectiveness.
  2. The social processes the team uses in carrying out the work enhance the members capability to work together interdependently in the future (Shared commitment)
  3. The group experience, on balance, contributes positively to the learning and professional development of individual team members.


These criteria can only be monitored after the work is done. That is inconvenient. Therefor Hackman proposes to measure the following 3 key processes while the work is being done:

  1. The amount of effort members are expending while they are carrying out there collective work,
  2. The task appropriateness of the team’s performance strategies. The choices the team makes about how it will carry out the work.
  3. The level of knowledge and skill the team is applying to the work.

Six enabling conditions

  1. creating a real team (please refer to Katzenbach)
  2. specifying a compelling purpose for the team
  3. putting the right number of the right people on the team
  4. specifying clear norms of conduct for team behaviour
  5. Providing a supportive organizational context
  6. Making competent team focused coaching available to the team.


Note: Point 1 to 4 are identical to Katzenbach, therefor I will leave them out of this essay. I will however outline point 5 and 6, which Katzenbach does not mention.

Ad. 5. Organizational context

There are 4 critical aspects to take into account:

  1. Access to information,
  2. Availability of educational and technical resources
  3. Ample material resources
  4. External recognition and reinforcement

It is interesting that here there might be slight difference with the team academy philosophy. At Team Academy everything is self supporting, some context is created but especially 1. And 2. are not well developed and could be improved I belief. I often get complaints about these issues. At TAN we will see how to improve that.

Ad. 6. Making competent team focused coaching available to the team

Here the following issues are examined:

–        target of coaching (individual members vs team as a whole)

–        the focus of team coaching (member relationship vs task processes)

–        the right time for coaching


Target of coaching: it is concluded that the focus should be on the team as a whole. Hackman explains this quite well in the book.

Focus of coaching: interventions that have been shown to generate gains in performance almost always involve structuring member interactions to lessen the chances that process miscues will divert the team from focused task work.


Examples are:


1. Nominal group technique

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The nominal group technique (NGT) is a group problem solving process involving problem identification, solution generation, and decision making.[1] It can be used in groups of many sizes, who want to make their decision quickly, as by a vote, but want everyone’s opinions taken into account (as opposed to traditional voting, where only the largest group is considered).[2] The method of tallying is the difference. First, every member of the group gives their view of the solution, with a short explanation. Then, duplicate solutions are eliminated from the list of all solutions, and the members proceed to rank the solutions, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.

Some facilitators will encourage the sharing and discussion of reasons for the choices made by each group member, thereby identifying common ground, and a plurality of ideas and approaches. This diversity often allows the creation of a hybrid idea (combining parts of two or more ideas), often found to be even better than those ideas being initially considered.

In the basic method, the numbers each solution receives are totaled, and the solution with the highest (i.e. most favored) total ranking is selected as the final decision. There are variations on how this technique is used. For example, it can identify strengths versus areas in need of development, rather than be used as a decision-making voting alternative. Also, options do not always have to be ranked, but may be evaluated more subjectively.

2. Delphi method

The Delphi method (/ˈdɛlfaɪ/ del-fy) is a structured communication technique, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.[1][2][3][4] The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the “correct” answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus, stability of results) and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results.[5]

Delphi is based on the principle that forecasts (or decisions) from a structured group of individuals are more accurate than those from unstructured groups.[6] The technique can also be adapted for use in face-to-face meetings, and is then called mini-Delphi or Estimate-Talk-Estimate (ETE). Delphi has been widely used for business forecasting and has certain advantages over another structured forecasting approach, prediction markets.[7]

Team coaching/general remarks

Research shows that team coaching only helps when teams are reasonably well structured and supported.

It is shown that experienced coaches wait longer with interventions in order to give the team the opportunity to learn and resolve their own issues.

A team coach can facilitate team processes but cannot change its basic course without taking over the team, which would in effect destroy the team.

Note: it is hard to overstate the effect of peer coaching. That seems to be the best way to empower teams.

60-30-10 rule: 60% of the performance of a team depends on the pre work the team coach does and 30% depends on the initial launch of a team. Only 10% of the success is determined by what the team coach does after the team has been launched.


This book gives great insights into team coaching and is a must read next to Katzenbach.

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