Creating Teams to Enhance JBE Programs

By Jeff Schrade

Like a mechanical timepiece, judicial branch education (JBE) programs have many moving parts.  For a JBE program to be effective, these moving parts must complement one another and move together: facilities must nurture a learning environment, content must meet participant professional needs, materials must be clear and engaging, faculty must be prepared, and participants must show up at the right place at the right time, ready to learn.  As the Globe Theater manager was fond of reminding young Shakespeare during moments of trepidation in the film Shakespeare in Love, “it always comes together in the end.”  Indeed it does, but never without the effort of a team.

Regardless of whether you are a member of a team, a formal manager, or an informal leader, it is important to understand how teams can be formed and enhanced to produce the most effective JBE programs.

First, a group is not necessarily a team.  Perhaps the most distinguishing difference between the two is mutual accountability.  Whereas members of a group can contribute to the outcome of the group through individual action, a team relies on mutual accountability and coordination among members to produce a collective outcome.

One of the seminal works about teams, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (2003) by Katzenbach and Smith, defines teams as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

To help us better understand the difference between a team and a group, let’s examine a group of attendees at a training session.  These individuals are assembled for a common purpose and likely assessed on their ability to learn key pieces of content, but the group effectiveness is a function of individual performance.  Can this group become a team?  You bet!  Assign the group an activity requiring interaction and upon which their performance will be assessed as a whole, and the group can build mutual accountability around a common purpose to function as a team.  In this respect, interactive classroom activities not only enhance learning but can also build team skills directly transferrable to the court workplace.

So is your judicial education department a team or a group?  Future Manager’s Briefcase articles will examine how teams form and which characteristics make teams effective.

Additional Reading on the topic of teams:
Katzenbach, Jon R. and Douglas K. Smith. The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003. (link to Amazon –

Katzenbach, Jon R. & Smith, Douglas K. (1993). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Business Review: Best of HBR 1993. 2005. Reprint R0507P. (link to HBR –