High-Impact Tools For Teams by Stefano Mastrogiacomo, Alex Osterwalder, Alan Smith and Trish Papadakos

The Blurb On The Back:

Make every project a success with the Team Alignment Toolkit.  Bring mutual clarity to the table, boost the contribution of every team member, and get successful results.

Create Alignment

Align Stakeholders visually, clarify roles, and manage risks as a team using the Team Alignment Map

Communicate Better

Ask good questions and surface facts with the Fact Finder.  Manage conflict constructively with the Nonviolent Request Guide.

Build Trust

Quickly set the rules a team will play by and create an environment of appreciation and respect between team members with the Team Contract and the Respect Card

You can buy HIGH-IMPACT TOOLS FOR TEAMS by Stefano Mastrogiacomo, Alex Osterwalder, Alan Smith and Trish Papadakos from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Stefano Mastrogiacomo is a management consultant, professor and author, Alex Osterwalder is an author, entrepreneur and speaker.  This jargon-heavy, somewhat clunky guide to building and operating teams to implement projects has great graphics by Alan Smith, Trish Papdakos and Chris White and offers accompanying precedents and sheets from a tie in website but is very broad and overly procedural and isn’t appropriate for every type of project.

The primary purpose of the book is to explain how to deploy the Team Alignment Map with the final sections talking about how to build trust among team members with a deeper dive into the psychology of team building, motivation and communication between team members.    

The fact that Mastrogiacomo is a management consultant really comes through in this book.  As someone who has worked in corporations and been assigned to projects where management consultants are taking a lead, I recognised a lot of what’s offered here.  It’s a very structured process that requires you to establish joint objectives and joint commitments and then identify joint resources and joint risks before engaging in a forwards and backwards passes.  If you’re new to managing a team then it’s a perfectly valid way of starting out because it gives you a way of structuring an approach but I do find it overly procedural (there is some benefit to the look forward/look backwards approaches but the reputations can make it get real old, real fast) and really heavy on jargon.  

Being honest with you, if I worked in a company and someone broke out a TAM I would struggle to stay engaged because it simply isn’t right for all projects and it’s an automatic sign that the person doesn’t necessarily know what they’re doing.  I actually would have liked some guidance from the authors on what types of project it works best on (the examples given raise from global HR initiatives to organising a birthday party and for the average reader that’s just not helpful).  

The sections on team psychology are okay but quite academic and formulaic and, to be honest, I didn’t think it dovetailed in to the TAM sections particularly naturally.  It’s also all a bit billy basics and while it’s aimed at dealing with team structure and attitudes, the fundamental issue that impacts on team operations is actually the overall corporate culture because it impacts on what the stakes are and how people react to each other, including whether there is divisional bunkering that prevents cooperation.

On the plus side, the graphics in this book are very well done.  They complement the process, are easy to follow and understand and do break down the different steps and concepts so if you’re someone who is more graphically minded than textually minded.  

Ultimately, I think if you’re completely new to team building and management then this is as good a starting place as any and it does benefit from having additional precedents and resources available through a website (details of which are in the book).  I just think that you need to approach it with caution because although it tries to portray TAM as having wide application, it simply isn’t appropriate for every type of project or every type of team.

HIGH-IMPACT TOOLS FOR TEAMS was released in the United Kingdom on 16th March 2021.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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