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Crimes against Teams

Clarity. It’s one of the most critical words in an organisation; clarity. But it’s often missing. Role clarity, clarity of leadership, clarity of purpose, clarity of objectives, outcomes, expectations, boundaries, responsibilities, accountabilities, measures, consequences. Many organizations have people working away within one, or many of these missing. They do what they think they need to, or should do, or only what they’ve been asked to do. But somehow there is a performance gap, something meaning that the results aren’t quite there. And often its lack of clarity.

And then there are teams without clarity, because they’ve been thrown together as part of the structure. They have team meetings and they are dissatisfied by them or find them a waste of time. ‘What are we doing in this meeting? Why are we talking about this? It is irrelevant to what I do!’

Then they ask ‘Why are we a team?’

And the answer is often ‘there would be lots of benefits if we were’ and that is followed by reasons such as ‘sharing information’ ‘sharing best practice’ ‘cross skilling’ ‘sickness cover’, and other such answers. And the manager sits back happily and expects that to make a difference and everyone to be happy.

The problem is that those aren’t a teams purpose. They are benefits for a team that is a team and activities that make a team more effective. But they don’t solve the clarity problem. Indeed they make it worse, because all people hear in the answers are ‘you didn’t know what to do with us and put us all in one room’ and ‘if you don’t really know, then what hope is there for the rest of us’.
Everyone knows that ‘team’ means you are dependent on each other, that you need each other to do your job and that in doing your job you are part of the success of the whole. If it doesn’t look like a team, feel like a team, then its probably not a team.

So the crime of sudo-team is committed. Activities are created to make us think we are what we know what we aren’t. Meetings waste time. Measures don’t reflect reality.

Instead of saying, ‘we aren’t a team as such, we are a group of individuals with similar skills /roles/activities for this organisation so it makes sense we live together and have the same manager to look after us.’ ‘So given that we don’t depend on each other day by day, can we get any benefit by being under the same roof?’

And suddenly its clear. We aren’t expected to be a team, there is a reason why my goals and objectives are mine and not shared, there is a reason why we have the same manager. So if that’s the case, well it would make things easier if we all got some of the same info about what is going on, so that’s better done in one meeting to be efficient. And maybe we can help each other solve problems, so how about we have a rule that anyone can call for a ‘problem-solve session’, and whilst we work on different things we use the same piece of software/process/base skills (tick as appropriate) so some way of sharing best practice may benefit all of us.

Hang on you say, that’s the same things that the manager gave when asked ‘why are we a team’, so what’s the difference? The difference is firstly that there is now no expectation of shared results and interdependency so the sham of being a real team is over. Secondly the team is now looking for benefits in being together as opposed to being told by their manager. As a result the group working practices can now be designed fit for purpose by a willing cadre e.g. Meetings get focused on what we all need to know, not what one of us needs to know. And you can’t discount the benefit of people wanting to be engaged in something because they see a benefit in it.

And most of all, what we are there for is now clear, with how and when we work together being based on that clarity.
People are happier in a crime free team.

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