Multi-functional work teams were a hot trend in the 1990’s.
If you can remember back when American manufacturing was reeling from the onslaught of Japanese high-quality products hitting our shores, you’ll recall that the culture of American individualism was considered passé. That’s when U.S. corporations made a commitment to figure out how to work in teams so they could gain back their competitive advantage.
I was part of that culture — excited about the prospect of leveraging our creative strengths to create even greater growth than we thought was possible.
So, when I went to get my MBA, I chose to focus on multi-functional work teams. As you’d imagine, we studied many different team models. Some were better than others. And what I learned from that experience was that not every team model is right for every organization.
Choosing a model that your organization can work with and follow is a lot like choosing a spouse or a friend or a religion for that matter. In a strange way, it’s a personal decision that you make with a group.
So why am I telling you all of this? Simple: so that you can read my review from the perspective of someone who’s lived through and studied “trends” in business teams. I received a review copy of Team Renaissance: The Art, Science & Politics of Great Teams  from a publicist. I wanted to read it because I was curious about what the latest strategies were in team management.
In this case, I’m not just going to review a book. I’m also going to provide my personal insights about how to use or read this book based on my experience with a variety of team models.
You Are Always Part of a Team
Whether you acknowledge it or not, your business is founded on a team. You may have a team of full time employees or you may have a team of virtual employees.
Even if you are a true solopreneur, you actually have an invisible team in place — your customers, your family and friends, your networking group and even the vendor companies you use to help you run your business. These days, none of us is truly alone in running our business (whether we want to be or not).
Teams Need a Solid Structure
Once you’ve acknowledged that there is a team dynamic going on in your business, this will completely transform the context from which you run your business. And suddenly, you will see the issues that appeared to be random hiccups as part of a pattern that, when mastered, will have your business standing on a much firmer structure.
Team Renaissance Offers Structures and Tools for Today’s Teams
In the past, team models were fairly simple. There was the “Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing” model you may have heard of, for example. Today’s team environments are understandably a little more complicated than that with a few more pieces and parts.
Team Renaissance is a book that gives readers the opportunity to choose what works best for them and their organization.
You’ll find real life examples and stories throughout the book to guide you on your particular journey of building a strong and stable work team.
Like every other team model out there, Team Renaissance has a graphic representational model of its process, called the Team Arch. There’s also an assessment tool, the Team Renaissance Survey. This is an interactive tool that helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
About the Authors
Team Renaissance is written (as you’d expect) by a team: Richard Spoon and Jan Risher. Richard Spoon founded ArchPoint Consulting after spending more than 15 years working in large organizations like Proctor and Gamble and Campbell’s Soup. He’s led large organizations through change efforts and worked with a diverse group of clients.
Jan Risher is a freelance writer with international experience that includes writing a regular column, traveling around the world and running a PR firm.
There are two additional authors who are mentioned inside the book, but not on the jacket flap. Jesse Edelman is also a Proctor and Gamble veteran with broad experience in sales and marketing. Stephen Peele is an independent consultant with an expertise in technology and marketing.
The fact that these four authors were able to pull together such a beautifully written and designed book should tell you that the process works.
Can Beauty and Substance Exist at the Same Time?
This is a beautifully designed and high quality book. You may want to display it on a coffee table in your office or home – but only do that after you’ve read it. There really are a lot of wonderful tools and insights inside.
Simple in its Complexity
As I mentioned before, the “Arch” is the guiding model for the content inside the book. One of the statements about why they chose an arch as the foundation for their team model also says a lot about the book itself – it’s simple in its complexity. 
“Just as the arch provides support for a structure, teams act as the foundation for any successful organization. The individual pieces hold the arch together, uniting to form a design that allows for the equal distribution of weight across the entire structure.”
The authors take you through each component of the model. If you’ve been used to the overly simplified models of business teams like I talked about at the beginning of the article, you might have a freak-out.
Even though the authors say it’s “simple,” if you’re just stepping into the space of running a team and you’re a small business owner – you might feel overwhelmed at first. Stick with it.
I can’t lie to you, gentle readers. This is a book that is targeted to larger organizations more used to complex human interactions and processes than a bootstrapping startup.
But that doesn’t mean that won’t find valuable tools and strategies that you can use in your small business. Each element of the model is easy enough to understand. You can certainly use pieces and parts of the model in your small organization. You just won’t have the complex structure in your application of the model that a larger multi-national company might have.
Team Renaissance is a wonderful book for managers inside of larger organizations. It can be used by small business owners of organizations that use a lot of teams, especially small manufacturers or design and development firms. This book is definitely worth reading if you are interested in team management.