If you've ever formed a project team in a large company, you've probably seen this process play out: required skill sets for the project are identified and specialists are assigned to the team as they become available. Meanwhile, even as they're being assigned to a new project, the new team's members are often still wrapping up their previous assignments.
This means they have limited time to contribute to the new project when it starts. Even more problematic, the new project's delivery date has often already been set, so the project manager pushes forward with the less-than-optimal resources on hand. All of this contributes to making the fragmented team's initial work together frustrating and slow.
Obviously, that's not the best way to enable high-performing teams. What if "dedicated" actually meant dedicated when talking about teams? What if teams started their work together by warming up with a significant, shared experience? In the Design for Extreme Affordability class at Stanford, students choose neither their teammates nor their project. Yet, the teaching team works hard to match for chemistry and starts new teams off with a design challenge -- one that is only tangentially related to their eventual project. If a team learns together and develops a shared memory of success and failure, the Extreme teachers have learned, they perform better when they're dependent on each other during the more important project.
Here at the d.school, my team and I have begun modeling the start of projects in the corporate world after this practice. We've protoyped a "project scavenger hunt" -- a field trip and challenge designed to create a shared experience that will positively change the way teams work when the "real" work starts. If you could redesign the start of a team's work, how would you go about it? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.