Das Humankapital meets prof. Richard Hackman


Richard Hackman is Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MacMurray College and his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Illinois. He taught at Yale for twenty years and then moved to his present position at Harvard University. He has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association’s division on industrial and organizational psychology, and both the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Academy of Management.

Davide de Palma : In 1975, on Harvard Business Review wrote an article titled: Is job enrichment just a fad? What has changed since then?

Richard Hackman : “Job enrichment” was a program, and therefore it went the way of all interesting programs—initial enthusiasm, and then loss of interest when it became clear that it did not immediately solve all work design problems easily.  What has evolved (and this is indeed a benefit) is an increasing awareness of the importance of how work is designed—for workers, for organizations, and for the people who are served.

Davide de Palma : What is leadership?

Richard Hackman : There are many definitions of leadership.  For me, a leader is someone who accomplishes (or facilitates others in accomplishing) the functions that are needed for group or organizational effectiveness.  I talk about this at some length in my new book “Collaborative intelligence: Using teams to solve hard problems” (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).

Davide de Palma : In 2001 you wrote a book with Wageman, which talked about The Team Diagnostic Survey. What is it?

Richard Hackman : The Team Diagnostic Survey (TDS) is a survey taken by team members (and their leader) that assesses the degree to which the conditions that we have found to be essential to team effectiveness are in place.  It generates a diagnostic profile for the team that members and leaders can use in thinking about how to strengthen  their team(s).  For more information about the TDS, including how to obtain it and use it online, see: http://www.team-diagnostics.com/

Davide de Palma :  What’s happening  at work?

Richard Hackman : Change.  Much is going on, especially in the use of electronic technologies to allow people to communicate, coordinate their work activities, and accomplish their tasks without needing to be in the same place at the same time.  It will be interesting to see how this trend develops over time.  I expect that the great enthusiasm about distributed work diminish somewhat as we all learn more about the dysfunctions, as well as the advantages, of distributed work. And I definitely worry about the tendency to chop whole tasks into tiny pieces which then are distributed to individuals who do their small parts of the work independently.

Davide de Palma : How can we define a team work, well built and well managed?

Richard Hackman :  A work team has a whole piece of work for which the team as a whole is responsible and accountable, and for which members must work together interdependently.  The conditions that are needed to properly design, support, and lead work teams are discussed in my books “Leading Teams” and “Collaborative Intelligence.”

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