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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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.
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:
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:
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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.
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