patkua@work

The intersection of technology and leadership

What do you have more of?

When I go into different organisations, I see many of the people doing the work (analysis, development and testing) split across multiple projects. In my experience there are plenty of reasons why this is just a bad idea, and probably the biggest one that I see is that the split priorities for an individual conflict with a model for ideal teamwork.

What does your organisation have more of? Teams or groups of people “working together”?

Teams and Groups of people

There’s a big difference between the two, particularly if your organisation is interested in tapping into the benefits of teams. Unfortunately most of the time organisations miss the mark.

How can you convert groups of people into teams?
Split priorities create natural conflicts between groups. A lot of management theory I’ve read describes how to get the most out of teams by rallying them towards a shared goal or set of goals. At the individual level, setting different goals for different people establishes a dynamic that, at some point, individuals’ priorities will conflict and without a broader shared goal, will go unresolved. Setting the same priority for everyone is, in effect, putting everyone into the same team. Leaving people split across multiple projects, is in effect, setting different sets of priorities for an individual.

7 Comments

  1. Patrick, looking at the picture I doubt whether I’d prefer being part of a team rather than a group…

  2. Felix – What makes you say that? Do you mean that you would prefer to be be a group because:

    a) the diagram implies everyone is thinking exactly the same thing?
    b) it’s strange to think that everyone can be focused on looking at the same big picture?
    c) Something else?

    Would you mind sharing a little bit more detail about why you say that? Thanks.

  3. Sorry, I was not very verbose. It is a). I think the value of a team is that you get different ideas. Of course reading the text makes it quite clear that you tried to show the shared goals. Still it worried me a little. Groupthink makes people stupid. Kathy Sierra had a good post about this – the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ is a very good read.

  4. In this post, I did not mean to imply in this post that everyone must agree and be clones. I also did not mean to imply that if everyone has the same goal, they should have groupthink. What I did want to get across is that you do not have teams if they are not working towards the same goal. They can each contribute in different ways towards that goal.

    I am very much a big supporter of collaborative decision making, set design/options and am familiar with the ideas of wisdom of crowds. For me, it’s important that all of these are still pointing in the greater direction (the same ultimate goal). How you get there can be different, and is important to investigate different options.

  5. Of course I understand that it your intention wasn’t pro thinking unification. It just could lead to the wrongful conclusion and as you can see, commenters have fallen for that :).

  6. I think many organizations believe they are creating teams with shared goals when really they are just creating groups of people. Most organizations I have been in spout slogans such as “team orientated”, “focused on success” etc. etc. As far as they can see they are have given common goals (usually using appraisals and job descriptions) e.g. “deliver software to deadline” and then organized people into a hierarchical structure of “teams” to meet those goals.

    The problem is that when you get below the “team” the interaction between members is limited to weekly meetings or social events (mainly going to lunch or cigarette breaks together). Each team member may have been given the same high level goal as the others but they are still placed within silos in that team and given individual areas and sub-goals. As a result there is little collective ownership, or shared knowledge and individuals become more and more focused on their own worlds and quickly forget about working together whilst management focus on “team activities” to attempt to resolve this. A great example of this is how few organizations use pairing, one of the most effective ways of creating a real sense of team.

    I think it is this disconnect between perception and reality that Ricky Gervais managed to capture perfectly in “The Office”.

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