Saturday, May 9, 2009

Team Work :

Team Work & Team Sprit


Madhu Yarlagadda

What constitutes a team?

What qualities should a team exhibit for them to attain success?

Why do some teams fail while others succeed?

The word "team" is overused in corporate world. Just because a group of people works together does not make them a team. A team is more than a group of people working together. To be a real team, there must be a spirit, where each person genuinely cares about his or her teammates’ success. There must be a willingness to bring out the best in others to achieve a common goal.

Simply because a group of people are on the same side or because they are wearing same uniform or because they are playing the same game or because they work together does not constitute a team. Any team where team sprit represents such external factors will lose the game they are playing. If they win it is because they are playing against a team with far more inferior team identify.

A team’s success is largely independent of their external environment or the tangible resources around them – the office, computers, desks, blackberries etc - all of which their competitors possess. Their competitors may even share a very similar product with very similar features. In professional sports, every team is comprised of excellent athletes who have nearly the same equipment and training available to them. So, why do some teams fail while others succeed?

What distinguishes one team from another is the bond that is developed with each other: trust, commitment, inspiration, consideration, attitude, communication, and leadership. Teams that succeed have chemistry and a sense of responsibility and ownership, with members focused not only on doing their own jobs well, but consistently supporting each other to succeed as well. Individual competence and integrity are key to earning team members’ trust.

Time and again you will find illustrations of teams with constrained resources compete with competitors that have vast arsenal of resources and win against odds. The secret for their win is that they have a team that has vastly superior team spirit. This is true both in professional sports as well as in corporate world.

The Microsoft Story:

The Start:

Microsoft Corporation was originally founded in 1975 to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. Microsoft rose to dominate the home computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid 1980, followed by the Windows line of operating systems. Microsoft achieved it’s original mission of “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software”. It achieved the mission by developing software that ultimately became ubiquity in the desk top computer market such as MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Visual development studio.

The IPO:

On March 13, 1986 the company went public with an initial public offering (IPO), with a starting initial offering price of $21 and ending at the first day of trading at $27.75. Microsoft two founders Gates and Allen were made instant millionaires and eventually the IPO created four billionaires and an estimated 12,000 Microsoft employee millionaires. Gates owned 45% of the company’s 24.7 million outstanding shares and Allen roughly 25% . Gates stake was 234 million and Microsoft’s total value $520 million.

The Products:

In 1989 Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office that bundled separate office productivity applications such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. On May 22, 1990 Microsoft launched Windows 3.0 and it sold more than 100,000 copies in two weeks. Its products crushed competition that included WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and more because they were better. Users switched to Microsoft products because they were better and Microsoft made it easier to switch by supporting compatibility short cuts. Before Microsoft products users had to memorize a vast number of key strokes that are mapped to various function keys found on top of the computer key board (F1, F2 …. F12). A user who learned to use WordPerfect short codes could continue to use same key strokes on Word to format the documents this lowered users switching costs.

The Web Era:

In 1995 Microsoft released Windows 95, a new version of the company’s flagship operating system which featured a completely new user interface including the novel start button resulting in sale of more than a million copies in the first four days following the release.

On May 26, 1995 Bill Gate’s sent an internal memo titled “Internet Tidal Wave memo” that propelled Microsoft to expand it’s product into computer networking and World Wide Web. It released its web browser, Internet Explorer (Compting product to Netscape browser) with Windows 95 Plus Pack in August 1995 and subsequent Windows version bundled the browser. On August 24, 1995 it launched MSN as a direct competition to AOL and an umbrella web portal.

In 2001 Microsoft released Windows XP, the first version that combined the features of both its business and home product lines. Before XP, Microsoft had two branches called Windows NT for business customers and Windows 95 / 98 for home users. Windows XP gave increased focus to Microsoft by combining its engineering talent on a single product. XP timing can’t be more right because it was the time where the differences between home and business started to fade away as home computer users became increasingly savvy.

Resources that Microsoft could bring to bear are far greater than their competitors. Some believe that sheer size helped it win against formidable players like word perfect, Lotus 123, Borland, Netscape and more. However, I believe to the contrary. I believe in each of these cases Microsoft had fewer resources but great teams that are focused on a common problem they were passionate about. It is the team spirit that helped them Win.

However, just because Microsoft had access to large amount of resources could not propel the company ahead of Intuit in finance software industry or against Apple in consumer products or against Yahoo! In internet portal business or against Google in Search.

The reason why Microsoft attained success in MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visual Studio for developers and it’s web browser Internet Explorer is because the teams behind these products were extremely passionate. They passion to solve the problem brought the teams together and created a team sprit that become the force for achieving greatness by creating products that were vastly superior to their competitors.

IBM was much larger than Microsoft but yet Microsoft dominated the PC market. Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect had head start but yet Microsoft office dominated. Even though Microsoft had a late start it still crushed Netscape in the browser war. However, Microsoft outspends Apple by every measure imaginable. In raw dollars, Microsoft outspent Apple ($7.121 billion to $782 million in 2007), a ratio of 9 to 1. Apple spends far, far less money on Research & Development (R&D), but has delivered far far more value over the past few years. Mac OS X Leopard, Intel-based Macs, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, new generation MacBook. Apple regularly delivers products and services such as the iTunes Store, iPod, iPhone, iMac that shake up entire industries. In a similar way Microsoft efforts proved futile in trying to dominate the internet portal space largely dominated by Yahoo, financial software space dominated by Intuit and most recently search space dominated by Intuit.

What helped Microsoft compete effectively against much larger companies like IBM or those that had much larger head start like Borland, WordPerfect or Lotus corporation? What prevented it from winning against Yahoo or Intuit or Google?

The answer is not simply the size or resources. But it comes down to team sprit. Any time a company can create a true team sprit it can win against any sector. Better products with deep value win the market in the log run and great team sprit creates such products. It is that simple.

Later sections will focus on ways to improve team sprit step by step.

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