It’s interesting how fashions change. Only a decade or so ago,the fads and fashions in management were all around teams. Self managed teams were in vogue and the buzzword was all about team working and team building.
A whole industry flourished in the training world around outward bound training, team events, treasure hunts and conferencing to name but a few ‘teamy’ activities.
So what happened? Why are managers and leaders so relentlessly and single-mindedly focused on individual development, arguably at the expense of teams?
I believe the fault lies in the definition of a team. The idea that a team is ‘a collection of individuals in pursuit of a common goal’ creates a low performance expectation and is the root of why teams seem to fail to deliver returns –never mind the current plethora of fads around individual assessment and development…!
I have always preferred some of the John Adair concepts (call me old fashioned..!) around synergy. The idea that the definition of a team is when the outputs are greater than the total of the inputs. In other words, the team creates increased value in some way to the individual efforts and outputs of a group of individuals.
This creates an opportunity as well as an problem for managers and leaders. At one level, they must think pragmatically whether they run a team, or just a group. Also, they need to figure out how they can create synergy. In addition, given they are part of the team themselves, they also have to consider how they add value to the team themselves, rather than the team adding value to them.
I wonder how many managers see team working as much more than the building of a sociable working climate with a bit of shared good practice thrown in, concentrating far more on the down sides of personality clashes, jealousy, rivalry and bitching which can characterise an ineffective team or even a group.
Perhaps it’s time for good leaders and managers to recapture the team ethos and really develop a modern idea of synergy. Really begin to exploit the performance gains they can bring and begin the measure the outcomes, after all, if you want to avoid cuts, why not seize the initiative and demonstrate some synergistic value?