Elements of Improving Team Performance and Teamwork | Breaking the barn effect | Focus on results

破除穀倉效應 | 聚焦成果

Written by◎ Yang Gongmao, Kangshiteng Management Consulting Company

The purpose of the establishment of the company is to set its goals and vision, and continue to recruit good people to join in the business process, and achieve the desired results through professional division of labor and effective collaboration. However, there is no perfection in people, as Mr. Jin Yong, a master of martial arts novels, mentioned in the book: “Where there are people, there are rivers and lakes.” It is easy for people to make it difficult for enterprises to create results due to some self-protection and selfish behaviors. Dr. Patrick Lencioni, a well-known American scholar of organizational behavior, mentioned in his best-selling book “Overcoming the Five Obstacles of Team Leadership” that when team members focus on their own or department’s self-interest (such as whether they can be promoted and profited, compete for resources, etc.), it will lead to ignoring the overall goals and results of the team, and invisibly produce department-oriented or mountain-based doctrine.

The Invisible Killer of Team Outcomes: The Barn Effect, with Sony as an example

Individualism is the most common pain point in the operation of many enterprises, obviously everyone works in the same company, you help me, I help you, isn’t it normal? Why is it not easy to produce collaborative behavior? Here I have to mention a term: “silo effect” (silo effect). In 2015, Gillian Tet, editor-in-chief of the Financial Times, studied why the Japanese giant SONY is declining year by year.

The so-called barn is the warehouse that American farmers build in their own fields to store crops and farm tools, and the barns are independent and independent. In a company where the “barn effect” occurs, each department is like a small independent company doing its own thing, and the departments do not know what they are doing with each other, just like a tall and closed “barn” that focuses only on the interests of the department rather than the interests of the whole, and acts independently, which eventually leads to a decline in the performance of the enterprise. The barn effect is like a virus that spreads invisibly and occurs in many parts of a company’s operations, resulting in more effort to solve cross-departmental issues internally.

Factors forming the barn effect: professional division of labor and department-orientedism

In addition to the “stock warehouse effect”, the principle of professional division of labor emphasized by modern enterprises is also the driving force for the “barn effect”. According to a Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Study, one of the reasons why it is difficult for companies to produce “teamwork” is that each unit or individual is too professional or focused on their own work, resulting in ignoring the correlation between each other, without which it is difficult to produce cross-unit collaboration.

The author once assisted a client, the general manager of the company, to describe an internal cross-unit conflict. The R&D unit wanted to develop new products, purchased a batch of new materials, and placed them in a space in the factory. Soon after, due to the increase in orders, the factory needed more space to store materials, and asked the R&D unit to remove the previously placed batch of materials. In this case, it can be clearly seen that both units are trying to do what they should do, and the goal is of course to create performance, but there is a gap between the two units. This is the most common self-centeredness encountered by enterprises, on the surface each unit is working hard to create performance, but the performance behind the real care is their own department, or within the company, which is the real key. Dr. Lencioni mentioned that when each unit in a company goes its own way, it can lead to the negative effect of team members ignoring the team’s results.

Good teamwork comes from consistently focusing on the desired outcome of the business (Alignment)

I believe that many readers love to watch the NBA basketball game in the United States, a good basketball game is a display of teamwork, the score table on the court only shows the time, the results of the two teams and other information, there is no player data. This means that any player’s fight is not to “brush up the data”, but the ultimate goal is to fight for the final victory. Another interesting teamwork experiment in which a group of kindergarten children outperformed several well-known business school teams, such as Stanford, UCLA in the United States, and Tokyo Imperial University in Japan! The competition is to give the participating teams a number of pasta, tape, and a marshmallow, and the criterion for winning or losing is to pile the marshmallows with pasta to the highest level during the competition. Surprisingly, the youngest kindergarten team won! How can a child who does not use any complex strategies win the competition? In the experiment, it was found that in the business school team, what psychologists call “status management” occurredThe status management effect, in which members constantly think about their position in the team: who is in control of the team, will criticism of someone’s ideas cause conflict, what are the rules of the team? These questions and hesitations lead to business school students’ interactions, which appear to be smooth on the surface, but are in fact full of inefficiency, indecision, and even stealthily competitive behavior. On the other hand, the actions of the kindergarten children seem to be chaotic on the surface, but they do not want to compete for the position in the team, everyone stands side by side, and they are energetic to do things together. They are willing to act immediately when they find a problem, even when they see a partner in need of help, and they continue to try with a spirit of experimentation and risk-taking, so that they can solve problems more efficiently.

Solution: Master the key elements of team collaboration

The above-mentioned “status management” effect is actually a psychological phenomenon of self-centeredness, where members care about themselves rather than the team. How can we avoid this situation and focus more on the results of the team? From the marshmallow experiment mentioned above, the author has sorted out a few key elements of teamwork:

1. Clear goals: For example, if you want to win a competition, or set specific team outcomes you want to achieve, such as the company’s revenue growth, customer growth, website traffic increase, etc. More importantly, the purpose of the team is not to do things for the good or benefit of the individual or the department, but for the purpose of the team.

2. Smooth communication: A good team communication will be very direct, good is good, wrong is wrong, and when you see a partner’s mistake, you will immediately remind and correct it, without worrying about affecting interpersonal relationships. If there is a lot of “inner drama” in communication, that is, thinking about how others will react before speaking and acting, rather than hoping for a better outcome, it will be difficult for the team to communicate smoothly.

3. Clear division of labor and initiative: the team carries out professional division of labor according to the task objectives, and more importantly, when gray area events occur, good teamwork is that members see what needs to be done, they do it directly, and report the situation in real time!

4. Ask for help quickly: If the block for which the member is responsible fails, the good team will immediately call for help and call for help from peers, without hesitation, shame or embarrassment. If there is a problem, the member is still worried about the face problem, worried about being scolded, reviewed, punished, or even reporting the good news but not the bad news, the more you think about it, the more serious the problem will be.

5. Full commitment: A good teamwork has only one goal, which is to create the best results, and everyone will not hesitate to give it their all. If members of the team are complaining about who has more work and who has less work, why am I doing these things, let alone giving it my all, it’s hard to just ask members to do what they have to do.


Mr. Eric Yang has worked in public agencies and private enterprises, and has been engaged in experiential training for more than 10 years. Mr. Yang is good at leading students to experience the impact of mentality and concept through experiential training, and then implement it in behavior. The teaching style is humorous and witty, but it can also be powerful, and when the course leads the discussion, through systematic structured questions, it leads students to reflect on how they and their teams can be more sophisticated, and can effectively guide the attitudes and concepts conveyed by experiential training to the implementation and practice!