When is a team not a team? Seldom was the age-old question about what defines a team as relevant as it has been in the past few weeks. Unless you stowed away on Tim Peake’s spaceship bound for the International Space Station, you can hardly have missed the references to teams versus individuals in the political and sporting arenas of late. Whether you pick the Icelandic or the Welsh football team, most would agree the reason they have both done better than the bookies bargained for is that the team was in it for the team. In other words, the needs and goals of the team superseded any individual need for recognition or recompense.
What are the implications for teams and project groups working together in your organisation? Are the weekly team meetings, the regular project team briefings and senior management team decisions a misnomer, a misrepresentation of the truth, or are those teams really working in the truest sense of the word? And if they’re not, does it really matter?
You may have seen the YouTube clip of the Ferrari F1 pitstop team changing tyres in less than a couple of seconds. The team relies on the single-minded, single-focused participation of every team member, to not only carry out the tyre change with unfaltering precision, but also to strive for continuous improvement. It’s not that long ago since the same activity took three or four times as long. Could this level of continuous improvement have been achieved by a group of specialists giving perhaps only a proportion of their time and creativity to the continuous improvement of the Ferrari pitstop process, whilst not subordinating their own goals and needs wholly to those of the team?
What happens to a real team when the chips are down? They pull together and seek a team solution. A group, on the other hand, more likely faces resignations, with team members striding out in search of greener grass outside the team. Or worse still, staying, becoming complacent and wobbling precariously with one foot in and one foot out; not dissimilar, in fact, to the UK’s current position with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
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