The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The use of protocols in teams

Working with Edith, a coachee, we explored how her perception of working for McDonald’s during a summer job shaped her idea of a team. Edith described how in her team everyone had learned to work at any of the possible stations. They knew how long the burger needed to be heated, how to put the fries into bags, etc. It made them flexible, allowed for some change in their day, but also meant that everything was organized. There is no necessity to organize a flow from one person to the other. It is built in the process. The person who fills the bag only needs to take the different items from specific predefined places.

A clear protocol of what to do and how long it could take for all the stations made it easy to execute one’s job.

It might be what made it a fantastic team experience for Edith. The members of her team loved to high-five with one another when they had successfully handled a rush of people passing through. They loved it to see how they could support one another during intense periods. They enjoyed a good atmosphere and had found ways to deal with the restrictions of the job given the repetitive and prescriptive tasks.

Even though it didn’t feel like a machine-type organization to Edith, the way they worked together focused on efficiency. Among other details, slack was reduced, creativity was excluded, and people could easily be replaced.

When tasked with the leadership of a different team Edith struggled. One of the main reasons she struggled was that she had not realized how much the species of organization she now worked for differed from the last. In her new team, very competent professionals came together. They all relied on their professional training and had to learn how to cooperate with people who could not replace them. In this team, people didn’t have a profound understanding of the job the other team members had to fulfill. For example, they didn’t know what input others needed to be able to cooperate, or what timing their task implied. Something else that wasn’t predefined was how they would share available resources. Without a clear definition of the interface between the different tasks, the team needed to discuss them. In an organization that is based on proficiency, it is the interface between the different tasks that needs to be elaborated and followed. The tasks may still be routine, but everyone seeks to understand how his contribution can fit into the overarching task.



Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *