The other side of teamwork: Do we need a revamp?

Monday, 8 May 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

IN-2By Murali Prakash

Is ‘team-work’ the right word and way to go or is it more ‘Oneness’. The word and the notion/connotation of ‘team work’ at times can pose hindrance to progress as the teams themselves can become self-centred to say so in achieving their own goals at the expense of the entity. The more successful they are in the chosen area, the more compartmentalised they could become. Organisations are already divided due to functional representation and goals and teams within that can create more issues. Cross functional teams... yes perhaps they serve better but, yet again can become executors of that task (the focused goal given) at the expense of other.

The issue could be the purpose itself meaning the very task given can override the overall purpose of the entity. For that reason, would like to call teams to focus more on ‘oneness’ in an organisation. Oneness, as we could profess is more centred in building uniform values across members and through that focus onto the assigned tasks. Values and attitudes would supersede the task essentials thus making them fuller members of the larger organisation through the values and through that the tasks; the essence of task being achieved through a clearly centred value system which does not override the organisational goals and values. The members would know, feel and would be told clearly that value system supersedes. Achieving the best defeating this value system should be known as not acceptable. 

Someone might argue that the argument is merely playing with words but not deeds. My thinking is otherwise. Let me draw parallel to a family and the situation there-in to a work place as I believe work place, is a larger manifestation of a family unit in literal terms.

Why is it that we do not talk of team work in a family? Is it that we do not have team work? Is it because it’s small? If so, there can’t be anything called small group/teams in work places. Look at the underlying factor in families. Isn’t it because we move as one unit specially so that we safeguard and espouse the same values across? We always call it a family unit. We say let’s as a family achieve this or do that. The underlying essence is the entire value system across the unit moves. We seldom or probably at no time say that we have two teams of males and females or parents and kids or in any other form of divide to achieve tasks. We might do tasks in that manner be it cooking or gardening but it’s overshadowed by the values and attitudes that we have built within the family. Just because the team cooking likes a particular meal, they might not do that (though at the end it produces a meal) but will take into account the overall family need. That is because of the overarching sense of value driven system that prevails where team centric micro achievements are defeated by thoughts. That is how the word oneness describes a family. That’s when we say we are one unit and think alike.

We’ve heard many stories of war where platoons are withdrawn or do lye in idle for the sake of overall victory of the war and not the battle. As Sun Tzu states, ‘those who know the terrain and the enemy and themselves win many wars’. The larger goals are dependent on the very fabric of values that a team is interwoven with. If not wars can become much more chaotic than they are today as each team will do what they think is right to win the battle. That can be catastrophic in terms of achieving the end results holistically even if it means short term gains in battles. Even a deep penetrating reconnaissance team will have very clear values embedded into it which will have an overarching effect on their final value delivery.

This is the argument that we are building for this discussion. The word ‘team’ if left alone can bring about a division of sorts within. It can also defeat the overall values espoused by the entity. We’ve seen teams meeting their goals at the expense of organisational goals. Yes! We get it. The heads of these teams need to ensure goal congruence. Yes. That’s written and is the idea. But the word and the mandate more often than not, can give rise to other effects probably influenced by the group think phenomena which can overshadow the purpose. Besides this the rewards can make this to be an even bigger issue.

We try to break vertical walls of departments only to find emergence of horizontal walls thus making the organisation a maze. 

Hence the reason as to why we feel that value system of an organisation should supersede the team process. In some way, a mere change in the term ‘teamwork’ can make the members wonder and relook at what is required once again. Any change will make people to rethink and re look at. In that sense, even if we argue saying it’s only a word change, this change can make people relook at and ensure they embed the values to the task when working in small groups. 

The term ‘oneness’ in that sense brings about that meaning of being together and achieving things together as opposed to ‘team’ which kind of brings about the feeling of being compartmentalised. Any act or results that defeats the value should be shot down in literal terms (thoroughly questioned and validated) even if it means a great short term gain for the team or unit.

In pursuing any team effort, probably a good idea to be clearer about the organisational values that needs to be safeguarded and the need for ‘oneness’ as a value system to remain in all work that the team does. Emphasis on oneness will defeat their thinking of being self-centred in achievements. It’s an alliance for a common goal.

Should we simply call teams as ‘Oneness Alliance’ or ‘Ideals of Oneness’.

Along with any task for the Oneness Alliance, they would be clearly spelt out the value parameters within which they need to operate. Such values will be embedded within the overall organisational values.

Simply ensure every such team has the TASK, VALUE, TIME matrix as part of the activity. 

Values we believe ensure a strong rooted foundation for sustainable business growth. This should go beyond a buzz word but in every aspect of the organisation. Short terms tasks/goals too should be part of it lest we forget and go for short economic gains.

Would this curtail creativity or improve? We could bring many arguments but that’s the idea of a thought process!

(The writer is a thought leader and is currently the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Taprobane Holdings PLC and Lanka Century Investments PLC with over 35 years of corporate experience. He can be reached on [email protected]).


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