May 12, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 17

Carroll School of Management Dean Andrew Boynton '78.

Of Winners and Virtuosos

CSOM's new captain co-authors book on successful teams

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Carroll School of Management Dean Andrew Boynton's soon-to-be published book on creating highly skilled management teams and big-time strategies to attain greatness has captured the approval of perhaps the world's toughest "boss" - New York Yankees' owner George M. Steinbrenner III.

The notoriously hard-to-please Steinbrenner even contributed a book cover endorsement to Virtuoso Teams: Lessons from Great Teams that Changed the World, co-authored by Boynton and George Washington University Professor William Fischer.

"I never thought I would be extolling the virtues of a book on Virtuoso Teams unless it specifically pertained to baseball," Steinbrenner writes. "Nevertheless here I am praising a book on the advisability of developing Virtuoso Teams - regardless of the organization to which you belong."

As far as Boynton is concerned, there's little mystery as to why the book, which examines key elements to successfully managing the attainment of major organizational goals, has drawn the favorable review from Steinbrenner or why it will be featured in the July issue of Harvard Business Review.

"This is about teams that win," explained Boynton, a 1978 CSOM grad.

"We have worked with a lot of teams and a lot of companies over the past 10 years. Frequently, these teams would have big ambitions, goals and aspirations, and they invariably put teams on projects to move the organizations forward.

"More often than not, these teams fell far short of the mark, attaining modest results at best. It doesn't have to be this way. We came up with the idea of 'virtuoso teams': If you really have something great to make happen, select the very best people and talent available - virtuosos - put them in every position and let them soar."

In the book, Boynton and Fischer provide a smorgasbord of non-traditional business case studies to underscore their point. "We said, 'Let's study teams that changed their world,'" Boynton said. "We looked at a number of teams from science, from global exploration, from the world of art and some from business, too."

Included in their case studies were the management teams that developed the legendary Broadway hit play "West Side Story," comedy writers for the old Sid Caesar television show, scientists in the Manhattan Project atomic bomb research group, leaders of the first successful expedition to the South Pole and Thomas A. Edison's "Invention Factory" of the late 1800s.

"Look at 'West Side Story,'" said Boynton. "In the 1950s, Broadway was all about plays like 'Damn Yankees' and everybody was happy. 'West Side Story' was about racial problems, the ghettoes of New York. They even had 'dead bodies' on stage. It was very risky at the time and none of the venture capitalists wanted to invest, but the producers, writers and composers went ahead anyway."

Boynton says the book may not provide answers for every team management situation, but the leadership skills shown in the specific areas covered in the book could prove beneficial to a wide range of managers.

"If you have a big change you have to do, get these great talents and then manage them in a certain way," he said. "These are teams for short bursts. You don't want them to be together forever.

"Conventional wisdom is that you don't want big egos or too much tension or your team will never get along, they'll never work together.

"Our cut is 'Fine, but they win.' Polite teams get polite results. This is not about polite results. It's not about people who tiptoe around the table."

Boynton, meanwhile, has been settling into a new team of his own, having taken over as dean of the Carroll School in January after six years at the International Institute of Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was professor of strategy and founder and program director of the institute's Executive MBA Program.

"The hardest thing is not having my family around," said Boynton, whose wife Jane and four sons will join him in Boston at the end of the school year. "The good thing - and I knew this within just a few weeks - is that I really like it here.

"It was a huge change for me on every dimension - family, profession, culture, living, you name it. But I'm really enjoying it. You sometimes don't know if you can come back, but the people are nice and I feel great being back at BC.

That's the most important thing, and I don't have any second thoughts."

Boynton says he is planning some new initiatives for CSOM, many of them geared to improving the school's resources. "I'm trying to do some things differently. We're working very closely with the Development Office. I'm enjoying that."

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