How NASA builds teams – The art of team alignment
- Why are some teams super successful and others problematic, despite both consist of world-class specialists and are equipped with top-level technology?
- How could differences in the atmosphere at these teams be described?
- How can technical and expert teams be helped to improve communication and cooperation?
Charlie Pellerin*, the former director for astrophysics at NASA, had asked these questions after many years of managing teams in NASA. In his research, he concluded that communication and cooperation in teams is controlled by an “invisible field” of so-called social context. People intuitively perceive this context and behave accordingly. In order to get a sense of how this field functions in a particular team, he defined eight behaviours that can be observed and developed.
These eight behaviours are directly linked to basic social needs and influence how people on a team feel, how engaged they are, and what results they achieve. These behaviours are gradually introduced at our social media sites, please follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook.
The 4-D System, that Charlie Pellerin created, measures these eight behaviours on team or individual levels. Team or individual reports then describe well-functioning and lagging areas, and necessary actions to be taken to maintain or improve the situation. Repeated evaluations enable teams to measure real progress and keep focus on what is critical. Individual and team coaching, workshops, and other interventions are delivered between evaluations as needed. No generic “magic” exists, and it is always necessary to be involved and willing to change things work.
This system – which has helped more than a thousand teams around the world with their alignment, success and satisfaction – is suitable for teams who:
- Function well, and want to deliver even better results and fine-tune their cooperation on interpersonal level.
- Teams who have gone through demanding time (projects, mergers, economic failures etc.) and who need to be jumpstarted again.
- Teams that need to change their coexistence and interpersonal relationships at work.
- Teams whose managers work on their leadership skills and would appreciate if their team was aligned to these efforts.
* Charlie Pellerin worked at NASA as a researcher, project manager, and later as director of the astrophysics division. He led several major projects, including the Hubble telescope. Following his experience with managing teams and their successes and failures, he became a professor of management at the University of Colorado, and he used his findings for the development of the “4D system” – a complex system for working with individuals and teams. Charlie Pellerin continues to develop the 4D system and provides it for managers and companies across the USA, Asia, and Europe. He has described his methodology in the “How NASA Builds Teams” book (Wiley 2007).