Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My 3 Predictions about future shape of teams - bigger, faster and impersonal

I had a stimulating chat with a journalist recently on the future shape of teams and realised that I had some very definite thoughts on the topic so here we go. What's the worst that could happen - well I could be totally wrong!

So I predict that in the next 5-10 years teams will change significantly in the following aspects:

1) Bigger
In the world of biology teams are massively bigger than human teams. The difficulty with large teams is that they are very difficult to coordinate and this tends to restrict human teams to "same task-same time" collaboration. The classic example of this is the Mexican Wave. However the most advanced form of team collaboration is "different task - same time" which is also known as "division of labour". Large human teams are not currently up to effective "different task - same time" activity - it just creates chaos. I predict that with appropriate computer support this is going to radically change in the future with very large virtual teams engaged in purposeful activity and not just social networking.

2) Faster
At the minute teams typically work on projects which take between 3 and 12 months. However this timescale is more a function of the way we work and the limited resources of the team rather than an absolute. I predict that the majority of teams in the future will be created and dissolved within 30 day periods and that the same amount of work will be achieved in this period due to larger teams of extremely well matched micro-capabilities exploiting different time zones to work round the clock.

3) Impersonal
At the minute we tend to have some degree of relationship with the members of our teams. I believe this  is because we are using relationship as a kind proxy for "can I trust them to do their job". In the future we will be able to use on-line capability databases and reputation tracking systems to work out who we need on our team without ever knowing them or even meeting them.

Ken Thompson (aka The BumbleBee) blogs about bioteams, virtual collaboration and business simulation at www.bioteams.com.