When the pursuit of teamwork may be useless

This is a brief illustration about the limitations of teamwork in a global organizing. My claim is that at a certain level of global complexity, teamwork is impossible to achieve because the value of teamwork runs too counterculture to much of the world.

The team I will describe is the “Global Presales Team”  headed by Paul Sinclair.

The mission of this Presales team is to prepare material for potential clients world wide, coordinate with marketing on “one message to the install base”, set the stage for Sales and client to be aligned around a product road map, and support the sales teams on technical matters.

The 4 presales members of the Global Presales Team function in a matrix: Paul is the corporate boss in HQ, and each presales person reports to a different area boss: Manfred is the boss in Europe and FSU; Gilad in the Middle East and Africa, Jimmy in Asia/Australia and Fred in North America.

The 4 team members of the Presale team are violently pushed and pulled in different directions by their area bosses who want  more customer visits  and Paul Sinclair, who wants the team to create presales material of global value.  (The corporate culture states “one team/one company” as a major value).

Paul Sinclair believes that the Presales is failing  because there is simply too little teamwork and synergy to meet shared global priorities. Well,  Paul may be right about the failure, but he is wrong about the diagnosis. Paul, Gilad, Manfred, Fred and Jimmy disagree on how to integrate conflicting priorities.

Jimmy, the Head of Sales in Asia has told his presales representative that he expects 100% loyalty. Jimmy  has told his presales manager that if there are clashes of interest between what Jimmy wants and what Paul  wants, Jimmy will solve these issues.

Fred, the Head of Sales in North America, has told his presales representative to “solve priority conflicts on your own, using your best judgement””.

Manfred, the Head of Sales in Europe+FSU is pushing for a “system” to coordinate conflicting priorities between Sales and Presales, because “we cannot push the priority management down, only up, to align with the master plan.”

Gilad, the Head of Sales for Mid East and Africa, has created his own presales team “under the radar” to serve his needs, allowing “Paul’s lackey to do what he wants”.


The basic assumptions about how to regulate conflicting priorities is meeting with too many conflicting basic cultural assumptions. Gilad is a cowboy and “works around a broken system like matrix management”. Manfred wants a system to regulate  a perfect reality, Fred wants empowered individuals to work out complexity and Jimmy wants a serf, because Jimmy does not care about anyone’s goals except his own.

So Paul ‘s pursuit of teamwork seems a bit futile.

Paul has asked VP HR for help, and she has recommended that the presales team do some outdoor training to “work out their issues to support our value of “one team/one company.”

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5 thoughts on “When the pursuit of teamwork may be useless

  1. its too well familiar reality that exists to even greater extent in Global companies that implement Matrix management.
    the sadness is that it stays in a way of doing business and brings so little contribution in terms of segregation of duties and corporate governance.
    the reality is that Gilad and his Israeli collegues are not only ones creating “shadow teams” under radar. Almost every successful business unit does.
    its a fact that classic org structure exists in almost unchanged form since Christian Chirch and Mafia days and even earlier. the reson is that it fits the best both human nature and business effectiveness, creating the fabric that makes businesses work.
    i’ve been working matrix, i’ve been working Global, Multi culture, etc teams and even have quite a few success stories while doing it.
    do I miss it? do i think its a great business practice / structure? I’d say not.

  2. Actually, even armies have different cultural outlooks on what team work is. In Germania, it was “each man for himself together” while for the Romans, it was “the team for each man”.

  3. What I hear in this one, Allon, is that the issue is not with the Pre-sales Team, but rather with the Regional people they report to. THAT’s where the lack of teamwork is & that rivalry is sabotaging their responsibilities.

    Of course, there may also be an issue with Paul pushing for uniformity when the customer cultures they’re addressing to are not uniform.

  4. Well, FWIW, it seems to me that a mistake was made at the outset in the form of “one message.” The players have cultural differences because they live and work in different cultures. Why “one message”? Why not several different messages? Why not tailor the message to the culture?

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