The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Challenges of teamwork

There is a default assumption that teams are more effective than individuals. Intuitively it makes sense. When looking at groups of people working together, we’ll easily see that they can have a higher impact than individuals. We’ll also see, that teams can cover larger grounds than individuals. It needs teams to serve 24/7, it also needs teams to be able to fight a fire on a large front for example.

However, many of these views on teams exist from a time in which command and control were the norms in organizations. But also compartmentalization as in the examples I named, it’s a regular component of command and control structures.

Things change dramatically when we look at teams from a cultural perspective. There the task is to enable people to work together based on the exchange of information, their competence in interacting with one another, and their ability to innovate to remain able to deal with regularly changing situations. These are teams that need individuals willing to trust one another and to engage in dealing with a task they can only solve together. This is always the case when they have to come up with decisions.

It’s the work many teams are confronted with today. They find themselves in organizations that have become increasingly diverse in terms of culture, gender, age, education, competence, and functional background. Not only that, they are regularly changing and remixed as tasks change or projects progress.

It means, that teams have to learn how to work together, they cannot expect it to be easy or given through decisions made by the leader. They have to learn to solve problems as they occur and do it together. This involves for example transforming their communication skills and ability to engage in conflict. It also requires them to learn to become clear on their mutual goal and find ways to gain focus and awareness on group processes.

As complexity reaches teams and their work, individuals have to attend to their growing responsibility and invest themselves in building trust in themselves and others. Not blind trust, the trust that is needed to overcome power dynamics and ego. Trust that fuels the sense of belonging and strengthens relationships.


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