John Veryard assesses the latest practical guide to team-based working

Published: 15/01/2004, Volume II4, No. 5888 Page 34

Initial impressions are not everything, but they are important - especially as Building Team-Based Working by Michael West and Lynn Markiewicz is an impressive piece of work.'do not judge a book by its cover' is a truism, but we are undoubtedly influenced by what we see initially, and our pre-conceptions tend to take over.Organization spelt with a 'z' implies a heavy US influence; and the brief biographies of the authors give a feeling of academia, somewhat removed from the real world.

The contents page seems comprehensive, but a seasoned line manger will look for solutions straight away, and ask how useful this will be as a pragmatic tool.Where are the pointers and tips on implementing the lessons learned from the experience of others?

Where is the focus on communication? The answers were not immediately evident and further reading is required.

The foundations for achieving effective team working is all here.To use the simple analogy of building a house, the more complete the preparations beforehand, the greater the prospect of the completed project meeting expectations.The elements are sequential, and although for some it will be a distance too great to consider in a single leap, the format provides for progress to be made via a step-by-step programme.Apprehensions are addressed and reassurances supplied along the way.

The three-year planning, implementation and review cycle could be a turn-off for many and seems over-ambitious.However, this is a proven blueprint, a useful reference tool and a good basis from which experienced trainers, facilitators and coaches can develop a tailored approach to organisations' cultures and learning styles.

The book encourages a change in traditional thinking and is not only about management style.Where systems are not wholly in place already, there are useful pointers on developing them.

Practical-based procedures are suggested to support continual self-development, towards improving individual, team and organisational performance.

If you believe in the need to create a work environment that focuses on the individual and their contribution within the team and the team's contribution within the organisation, but are not sure how to go about it, you could do worse than get your hands on a copy.

It is not an easy read, but well worth the effort as a reference source for a new initiative, or confirmation of an existing project.

Building Team-Based Working: a practical guide to organizational transformation.Michael West and Lynn Markiewicz. BPS Blackwell. ISBN 1405106115.

£55.

John Veryard is director of Hurst Associates (Europe).