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The key to Working as One-Team lies in challenging the excesses of the 'divide it up' mentality and breaking down the thinking barriers



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Working as One-Team



"We just don't seem to work in very well together as a team! Everyone does their own thing. We’re not on the same page about what’s important. We don't share information or help each other out."  Sound familiar?

    Dividing is Divisive

“Working as One-Team” has become a devout article of faith in most workplaces. It matters because we know what chaos it causes, that it costs and what opportunity is lost if teams can’t find a way to row in the same direction together - when our efforts are uncoordinated, cut across or are even in conflict with each other.

If you look at how work has traditionally been put together, you get a better idea of what Working-as-One-Team is all about. Our thinking about how to best organise work is still dominated to a large degree by the 'production line mentality'. The guiding rule has been "divide it up". It’s a perennial organising principle that still persists in most workplaces.

The “old-divide” principle has had massive efficiency benefits but one unwanted legacy is that it also seems to inevitably create boundaries between one function, team, job and another.

There’s nothing wrong with this, so long as everyone still keeps the big picture work process in mind – and constantly remind ourselves that we all work for the same team with the same overall purpose.

    The Silo Mentality

But the unfortunate trouble with the ‘divide-it-up’ approach is that we get locked into our own job boxes (they're called ‘silos’ or ‘chimneys’) where we quickly lose sight of the big picture of what’s going on.

Silos are an operational pain-in-the-proverbial for organisations of all sorts of sizes.

Inside each silo, pieces of work that should belong together get scattered amongst different teams (even divisions). Rigid boundaries spring up around and between us.

We start to think only in terms of our job-box – and find it hard to think outside it and consider what others do and need.


We stop sharing information (if we ever started), cross-boundary cooperation shrinks (if it ever existed) and collective accountability (if it ever was) turns into a blame-game.


As teams grow more isolated, they become more self-focused in terms of our plans, our priorities, decisions, actions and responsibilities.


Work can get so compartmentalised we don't even talk to each other, even if the quality of the final product or service depends on it.

Boundaries between work areas become impenetrable brick walls with big “keep-out’ signs painted on them to stop anyone trespassing on our territory. This is what happens when we develop a silo-mentality. And all this becomes indelibly imprinted on the culture.


The key to a Work-as-One-Team approach lies in challenging the excesses of the ‘divide it up’ mentality - to break down artificial barriers between work areas and perforate those previously impenetrable brick-walls. Often these boundaries are ‘thinking’ or ‘attitude’ ones, not just actual work process or system ones. For example:


Lapses in thinking about coordinating with others. Blaming each other, competing, hogging resources, skills and ideas and working myopically or selfishly at cross purposes


Being unwilling to help others – often masked behind being busy or hiding behind the “that’s not my job” excuse


Job protectionism, isolationism and competition as to whose project matters more and a ‘not my job’ mentality means we don’t ‘share the load’ and some people slip-up and don’t “pull their weight” at all.

These are just some of the symptoms of siloed team behaviour. They’re also major reasons why teams under-perform, pursue their own agendas at the expense of others, make costly mistakes, plan in isolation, compete rather than collaborate with each other, duplicate efforts and squander resources.

'Working-as-One-Team' says you can’t afford to operate in isolation if you want your whole organisation to succeed. Everyone in every team or work area needs to:


Remain focused on the big picture and do what’s needed whether or not it's technically our job or not


Know and value each other’s roles, contributions, strengths and skills and then...


Be willing to switch roles, help out others and cultivate cross-boundary cooperation


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The Change Forum has specialised in producing practical programs for building better teams since 2001 and for many years prior to that worked hands-on helping to redesign work and jobs and skill-up workgroups to set up new ways of working together  in teams. 

More on the subject of Working Better Together and other key change areas for leaders and teams in our free FactFiles Articles and Newsletter back issues See our Course Directory and Programs page for information on the range of programs we offer for leaders and teams in these 5 broad areas... 


Building Better Teams


Culture & Change


Emotional Intelligence & Mindfulness

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Leadership, Facilitation & Coaching


Contact BILL CROPPER to talk over your change and learning needs    OR    +61-(0)7-4068 7591 or Mob: +61-(0)429-687 513


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