Don’t ignore the underworld of poor team work.

No other discipline can deliver results as powerful as can OD in the domain of teamwork.

This having been said, too many OD practitioners look at teamwork out of context and proceed to work with organic teams or “cousin groups”  to develop team effectiveness before examining the context in which the team operates.

This post will focus on what an OD practitioner needs to both look at and deal with in order to create a context for team work, regardless of the specific team.

1) Does the organization have an expectation that clearer defined roles and responsibilities as well as adherence to process are essential to team work?

Because the truth is:  teamwork’s added value is that it compensates for the inability of process and total role clarity to enable the work flow. Often poor team work is a result of overdosing on process and clarity  to control work flow.

Creating a context for teamwork entails working on teamwork as a compensation for the system in order to get it to work.

2) Does the organization recruit team players at the top?

Because if the organization is led by people who maximise their subsystems. there “ain’t gonna be no teamwork”.

Creating a context for teamwork entails working on the optimization of subsystems at the top of the organization.

3) Does the organization fund face to face interaction?

No amount of technology can compensate for the alienation inherent in the global configuration of organizations. People who do not meet face to face will not be able to work well as a team, especially if the issues at hand are complex and need a lot of healthy heated interaction to solve.

Creating a context for teamwork entails insisting that face to face dialogue is budgeted.

4) Does the organization overcommit to its customers?

If the organization has hallucinatory  commitments to its customers, the entire organization will be covering their ass to show that they are not guilty for the inevitable slips that will occur in both schedules and costs. Teamwork in over committed organizations is a critical success factor, but very rare.

Creating a context for teamwork entails removing the “blame game” and working on the over commitment, not just the team work.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t ignore the underworld of poor team work.

  1. Your points are well-taken, Allon. I would add one more: the work itself must require teamwork; there must be some real dependencies and interdependencies between and among jobs, roles, tasks, processes and groups that demand cooperation, coordination, and collaboration – in a word, teamwork. Nothing wastes energy and resources more than trying to promote teamwork where there is no need for it.

  2. Great stuff, as always Allon. I’ve been saying for a long time that 100% virtual teams are not yet possible. We’re probably only, at most, a few years away from the tech that will enable such, but we’re not there yet. When such a huge percentage of human communication is non-verbal, so long as we don’t have the technological capability to provide that non-verbal portion, 100% virtual teams can never gel.

  3. Senior leaders must demonstrate the wisdom in choosing when the discipline of aligned individual leadership is required and takes priority over the equally important but distinct mode of team discipline (often misnamed as teamwork). They also must demonstrate the wisdom of choosing when team discipline is required and takes priority over the equally important but distinct requirement of aligned individual leadership. Unless that distinction is understood by both the OD consultant and the team that leads, what is referred to as teamwork but truly is team discipline is wallpapered in all the rooms of the organization.

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