Hiding from the real issues
Put aside the 'veneer of politeness' and put the most troublesome issues on the table -- so they can be resolved.
By Geoffrey Colvin, FORTUNE senior editor-at-large

(FORTUNE Magazine) - "Put the fish on the table," says George Kohlrieser, a professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. You've got to go through the "smelly, bloody process of cleaning it," but the reward is "a great fish dinner at the end of the day."

Most people don't want to be the one who puts the proverbial fish on the table. "There's a veneer of politeness," says consultant David Nadler, "or unspoken reciprocity - we won't raise our differences in front of the boss."

Good teams
Lessons from the business playbook
George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman
In 1859 they founded what became A&P, the first modern supermarket chain. Buying directly from the ships that came into New York, they created a new business model for selling groceries.
William S. Paley owned it; Frank Stanton (president,1946-71) ran it, and from the late 1950s to the mid-'70s, CBS dominated prime time, becoming known as the Tiffany network.
Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank
Fired in 1978 from Handy Dan, a small home-improvement chain, they went on to pioneer the big-box specialty store. Home Depot is now America's No. 2 retailer (behind Wal-Mart), with almost $82 billion in sales.

Consultant Ram Charan describes a $12 billion division of ABB (Research) that was headed for bankruptcy, in part because of "its culture of polite restraint. People didn't express their honest feelings" about the most important issues. The unit's leader turned it around by insisting that team members say what was on their minds.

Jack Welch was one of the great champions of putting the fish on the table - facing reality, as he says. GE's dream team was and is the Corporate Executive Council, which used to meet at headquarters in a formal atmosphere with rehearsed presentations and little real discussion.

Welch moved the meetings off-site, forbade prepared presentations and jackets and ties, and lengthened the coffee breaks to encourage informal discussion, among other changes. At GE (Research) they call this "social architecture" and believe it was a critical element of Welch's success.

In business, dream teams are usually part of some rescue fantasy, not the real world. "Be prepared to have an imperfect set," says Charan. "Then you've got to devote your energy to getting them to synchronize. It's very time consuming. It taxes your patience." It's life.

To avoid seducing yourself into thinking all your problems might be vaporized by assembling a dream team, resolve now to accept this fact: There was only one Dream Team, and that was the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing - it was a one-time event. (And remember, Bird and Magic, the veteran co-captains, both had reputations as team players.)

For the rest of us, putting together a few talented people who will work honestly and rigorously for something greater than themselves--that's more than enough of a dream.


Why dream teams fail:

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