Team Building 101…Dump the Committees

(My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine week of Jan 8th)

In the world of business we hear from just about anyone who strides a stage or whips out the PowerPoint® presentation that it’s about “Teams.” They blather ad nauseam about team building. Most regurgitate so many old and tired metaphors to emphasize their points one needs to wonder if they purchased them by the ton. “There’s no I in team!” I swore if I ever heard that one again I would walk out of the meeting even if it meant I would be fired. Enough already what’s next “Right brain, Left brain thinking?” Forget the pink slip. I’ll save a tree and leave right now.

Teams and team building is what most say they want their organization to resemble. The problem most never understand is that on a team there can not be any winners or losers within the team without effecting the well-being of the team. When you have one person who can win at the expense of another you don’t have a team you have a committee. The two are similar when viewed from a distance however they are geared and designed to exploit very different objectives.

Teams share a common goal. That goal could be winning a game, designing a new widget, or research project just to name a few. Everyone on the team shares the common quest for the attainment or successful outcome of the project, however if for some reason one persons input needs to be discounted or not used that person is neither to be offended nor felt left out. They may need to switch roles, or work on something that seems unrelated to outsiders, but for the winning of the team in its goal nothing is too big or too small a chore. On a team, the team winning is all that matters even if it means one of the members needs to be sidelined. That is not the way committees work, and that’s what most are but they call themselves the former.

Committees are important and necessary. They allow for different teams to coalesce and fight for why their project, research, and others have a need. Another would be to validate their funding. You get the idea. But unlike a team the members on a committee don’t share the most fundamental principle needed for a team. In a committee someone can win big while an other can lose. (and lose big!) Here’s an example:

In a committee made up of different department heads say the warehouse department wants more influence or control of inventory decisions, but that would entail hindering the purchasing department. While the warehouse department might win the argument for having the control, the purchasing department would in effect be losing. Maybe with that decision the purchasing department doesn’t take advantage of some deeply discounted volume buy that would give the sales force an edge over the competition because the arguments over control have been decided by committee to reside with the warehouse. The warehouse might now be running like a Swiss clock, but other departments could suffer greatly. Understanding this dichotomy and managing each effectively is what sets winning teams or companies apart.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved