on strategy
on change
on teams
on decisions
on coaching
on games
about us
contact us

on teams

There is an extraordinary amount of management literature and rhetoric about teams.  The general consensus is that no matter what the organisational questions may be, the answer is more effective teams.  If only life (and business) were that simple!

The truth is that reality is more complex.  Teams can be wonderfully effective as a business system – but only when the strategy and the work actually require a team.  Management heresy?  Perhaps, but here’s why we think that way:-

There are three ways to manage your organisation:

1.      Set it up so that people inside compete with each other to succeed

2.      Set it up so that people inside cooperate with each other to succeed

3.      Set it up so that people collaborate with whoever they need to succeed

Competing with each other for annual bonuses or the biggest office is sadly common in many organisations.  It is the antithesis of team work.  People are rewarded for individual achievement.  They therefore hoard knowledge, maintain exclusive networks, monopolise key clients and ignore (or undermine) other workers.  Veneering this environment with team rhetoric will not change the game or anyone’s behaviour. In fact, it makes reality undiscussable.

Cooperating with each other seems a much better way to work if you need effective teams.  However, cooperation only takes you part of the way.  It is a great improvement on competing, but it really only shares some of the load and makes the environment more pleasant.  I might cooperate in solving your problem, but it remains your problem.

Collaborating is a whole different dimension.  The problem (or opportunity) is innately ours.  None of us can possibly succeed on our own or by working in parallel lines.  We stand or fall together.  That is what makes a team: mutual dependence to achieve a shared goal.  Cheery rhetoric won’t help, only the hard slog of clarifying roles, accountabilities and inter-dependencies, then managing work flows and projects. 

Teams are hard work and high maintenance. That’s why they can’t be the glib answer to every organisational challenge.  Put simply, team is as much a strategy as it is a way of working together.  Use it thoughtfully.