So when your company has a crucial strategic project, why not multiply all that firepower and have a team of your best performers tackle it? They have seen all-star teams do extraordinary work. But there is a right way and a wrong way to organize them. You have to give the team appropriate incentives and leaders and support staffers who are stars in their own right. And projects that are ill-defined or small scale are not for all-star teams.
Use them only for critical missions, and make sure their objectives are clear. Even with the right setup, things can still go wrong. The wise executive will take steps to manage egos, prune non-team-players, and prevent average coworkers from feeling completely undervalued.
She will also invest a lot of time in choosing the right team leader and will ask members for lots of feedback to monitor how that leader is doing. In fields that involve repetitive, transactional tasks, top performers are typically two or three times as productive as others. Justo Thomas, the best fish butcher at Le Bernardin restaurant in New York, can portion as much fish in an hour as the average prep cook can manage in three hours. In highly specialized or creative work, the differential is likely to be a factor of six or more.
Before becoming chief justice of the U. Supreme Court, John Roberts prevailed in 25 of the 39 cases he argued before the Court. That record is almost nine times better than the average record of other winning attorneys excluding solicitors general who have argued before the Court since Some people argue that talent is overrated. But our estimates, based on evidence from a variety of industries, suggest that star employees outperform others by a country mile:. Why, then, do companies so rarely bring together a team of star players to tackle a big challenge?
Egos will take over. To be sure, managing a team of stars is not for the faint of heart. The conventional wisdom is there for a reason.
We have seen all-star teams do extraordinary work. If you have world-class talent of all kinds on a team, you multiply the productivity and performance advantages that stand-alone stars deliver. Consider auto-racing pit crews.
And each member is the best for his position—gas man, jackman, tire carriers, and tire changers. The crew can execute a standard pit stop—73 maneuvers, including refueling and a change of all four tires—in Add two average team members to the mix, and it climbs to well over half a minute.
Putting the best thinkers together can spur creativity and ideas that no one member of the team would have developed alone. The Pixar team originally presented Disney with what Katzenberg deemed an uninspiring tale. To do their best, alpha teams need leaders and support staff who are all-stars too. Extremely talented people have often never worked for someone they can learn a lot from; in our experience, most relish the opportunity and pull out all the stops. And high-caliber subordinates allow team members to accomplish more.
A gifted administrative assistant, for example, requires less direction and competently shoulders many routine tasks, so the other team members can focus on what they do best. The companies use that information to continually improve their staffing resources and deploy them more effectively. The firm carefully rates each of its 3, employees every year along two dimensions: performance and potential. The senior team at AB spends several days together each year cross-calibrating both sets of ratings across the entire company.
Finally, watch out for talent hoarding. In too many organizations, star players are confined to a division, hidden from the leaders of other divisions. Microsoft is an example. The wise leader anticipates this problem by actively and continually looking for talent. The individuals responsible for executing strategy must have an ownership stake in this recruiting process, because talent is always a key component of strategy. Yet many companies continue to subcontract recruiting wholesale to the HR department and professional search firms.
Product development efforts often fit this category, and others may as well. Back in , Boeing recognized that it had an important gap in its offerings: It had no airplane positioned between its jumbo jetliner and its midsize model.
To address this gap, Boeing assembled a team of its best engineers. The design effort was different from anything the company had previously done. The basic design was completed in less than four months. The plane entered service in less than five years.
By assembling its engineering stars and having them work side by side with customers, the company was able to launch what many industry analysts view as the most successful airplane program in commercial aviation history, with nearly aircraft in service today. Moreover, Boeing got the to market faster than any other major plane before.
The trouble was that marketing performance varied greatly: The success rate for the best properties was nearly four times that of the average property. It eliminated overlapping promotions. It tested new promotions at one property before rolling them out systemwide.
It focused investments on promotions that had a demonstrated track record of generating profitable revenue. Egos can get in the way of team performance. This team succeeded because the goal of representing the United States with honor at the Olympics was bigger than any one player.
These are two points that organizations creating all-star teams should keep in mind. All-star teams headed by poor leaders can produce mediocre results. To avoid this scenario, an organization should invest as much time in picking team leaders as in picking members, ask members for feedback on the leader early and often , and not be afraid to switch generals or even to promote a team member to leader.
Then ask them how confident they are that their companies deploy and manage their best players to have the greatest impact on the bottom line, and they will probably express reservations.
Is it possible that executives are overlooking one powerful tool that could help them achieve that goal? He is based in Hong Kong. Talent management. January—February Issue Explore the Archive.
But our estimates, based on evidence from a variety of industries, suggest that star employees outperform others by a country mile: The best developer at Apple is at least nine times as productive as the average software engineer at other technology companies.
The best blackjack dealer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas keeps his table playing at least five times as long as the average dealer on the Strip. The best sales associate at Nordstrom sells at least eight times as much as the average sales associate at other department stores.
The best transplant surgeon at a top-notch medical clinic has a success rate at least six times that of the average transplant surgeon. Putting the best thinkers on a team together can spur extraordinary creativity. Related Topics:. Partner Center.