The Art and Magic of Building Great Teams

As someone who absolutely loves sports, I follow the fortunes of various teams and often wonder what makes some more successful than others. Certainly, there are times where it is all about certain players and their transcendent ability to carry the team – Michael Jordan made the Chicago Bulls and they have never been the same since he left. The more common case, however, is that someone (the coach, general manager, or owner) plays a strong role in consciously and consistently putting together the right players, coaches, and front office that form a cohesive, effective unit. In recent memory, the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, San Antonio Spurs, and St. Louis Cardinals all come to mind as teams that were built to last in this manner. The same set of ideas applies to other organizations, whether they are in the business, non-profit, or government arena.

In my book Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, I explore the challenges we faced building the Xbox business and then apply those lessons to our civic organizations. From that analysis and my 22+ years at Microsoft, I’ve concluded that this process is some interesting combination of science, art, and a bit of magic. Here are a few things I’ve learned on the subject of “building the right team.”

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