In theory it should be easy to create a team. Each stakeholder part of the organization sends their best and brightest, outside expertise is brought in, the goal is explained and the “team” gets to work. The reality is almost always different.
The reality is that each stakeholder part of the organization has a different agenda. Some parts of the organization really want the goal to happen. Some kind of want it to happen, as long as it doesn’t disrupt other things. Some parts of the organization emphatically don’t want it to happen. In fact those parts of the organization and their leadership will work hard to keep the goals from happening. Leadership in some parts of the organization may feel that the project goals have been inflicted upon them. When they select team members, they may choose people who aren’t the best and brightest. Or they may instruct their team members to protect the suborbanization’s interest at all costs.
Frequently the people who are chosen to join the team are not relieved of their day jobs. The people in their home organizations don’t have a real appreciation of the team demands being placed on the team member and just see a diminishment in performance. They don’t see the massive increase in responsibility and demand being created by team responsibilities. This creates a tension for the team member that is painful. It actually puts the team member’s career at risk.
Ideally the outside expert resources are there with the best interests of the organization at heart. Frequently, however, they are the “them” to the organization’s “us.” There are rules about how these outside resources can be treated by the organization–there are barriers to keep them from being identified as employees for tax and regulation purposes. These differences just enforce the ‘outsider’ aspect. It is hard to create a team when you’ve got the them and us dichotomy.
According to Wikipedia, a dichotomy is “any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning it is a procedure in which a whole is divided into two parts.
It is a partition of a whole into two parts that are:
- jointly exhaustive: everything must belong to one part or the other, and
- mutually exclusive: nothing can belong simultaneously to both parts”
How do you create a ‘whole’–a TEAM–when you start out with the split between the outsiders and the insiders? How do you build a team when each member comes from an organization, led by a leader in control of the team member’s career, with a different agenda?
Start with the Goals
- The goals must serve the ORGANIZATION. The goals may serve one part of the organization more, but the WHOLE organization must benefit from project.
- The team members–all of them, from every part of the organization, from the inside and the outside–must be able to see the benefit to the whole organization. This may be a process. Every team member comes to the team with his/her own organization’s perspective. Changing that perspective to see and want what is best for the whole organization is a process, it takes time. It must start, however, with goals that DO benefit the whole organization. Without this, creating a ‘team’ is a non-starter.
People will work to benefit their friends. I’m not saying that all team members have to be friends, but there have to be cordial, complex, willing relationships among team members. That transformation from us to “US” must take place. This is what organizations are trying to create and support when they bring in “team building” activities. These help. They are not enough, though, especially when the team is dipped briefly in the team building and then goes back to whatever business as usual that happened before.
Things that help build relationships:
- Proximity–teams that work together and live together (in a work sense) form relationships and are forced to work through problems among themselves. In a virtual world, you have to figure out how to do this. Things like Lync and Skype help with this enormously, but creating opportunities to really get to know each other are essential.
- Eating–human beings feel better about people when they break bread together. Why is that? Who knows–it probably goes back to the cave days. At any rate, eating together helps build relationships.
- Playing–it helps to see each other in different roles and places. Outside the work context. When you play together you start to see each other differently. You develop inside jokes, fun memories, even trust.
- Talking–encourage people on the team to talk about things beyond just the tasks of the project. It is NOT a waste of time.
- Solving hard problems–let the team, rather than their leadership, solve the hard problems. At first they will resist that. At first they will delegate up. If they start working together to solve the problems, they will form different, more integrated relationships.
- Celebrating–all kinds of celebrations create and cement relationships. When people feel happy and proud, they feel connected. They associate with positive celebratory feelings help cement the relationships.
Discipline and Execution
Get the project done. Enforce deadlines–for everyone. The chief complaint for people on teams is that some people do all the work and everyone gets all the credit. If there is a system that assigns tasks and enforces delivery on those tasks; if team members see steady progress and see that everyone is working; if leadership sees things moving along and meeting expectations, then the team works better.
Bottom Line: Do What It Takes
Building teams is work. Don’t take the team creation be the end. Keep trying things until your done. A great team delivers a project. It’s worth it.