Management Challenges and Symptoms
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Janice Langan-Fox, Cary L. Cooper and Richard J. Klimoski
Chapter 18: When Teams Fail in Organizations: What Creates Teamwork Breakdowns?
Dana E. Sims and Eduardo Salas Days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center issued warnings of the projected devastation of life and property. Ultimately, the warnings did nothing to prevent the ultimate failure to adequately prepare for and respond to the storm by local, state and federal agencies. Hurricane Katrina was not the largest hurricane to strike the USA, nor was it the ﬁrst time that a hurricane of this magnitude reached the Gulf Coast. Despite this, reports of communication failures, breakdowns in leadership, poor decision making and a lack of situational awareness suggest the response to one of the USA’s largest natural disasters was also one of the largest breakdowns of teamwork compounding the devastation of the Gulf Coast (CBS News, 2006; McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2005). The emergency response to Hurricane Katrina is a poignant example of how even expert teams with needed resources and expertise available at the tip of their ﬁngers can fail. The question then arises, what creates teamwork breakdowns? Insights aﬀorded by a century of team theory and empirical research suggest ‘chemistry’ is undoubtedly a critical building block of successful teams. It is the ‘chemistry’ that exists between team members, their leaders and their organizational environment that can tip the scales from success to failure. It has long been understood that when teams gel, they are capable of accomplishments that no individual could hope to achieve. But what does it take to get the ‘chemistry’ within the team correct...
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