Posts Tagged ‘teamwork’


February 26, 2014 6 comments

It took me about 15 minutes to conjure up the inane picture below. It took me another frustrating fifteen minutes attempting to come up with something that rhymes with “team-work” for the lower half of it. As you can see, I failed miserably. Do you, dear reader, have a better label for the “crappy” half? (@riczwest, my money is on you!)


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Mistrust Over Teamwork

October 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Because I’ve stumbled upon several rave reviews of the book, I started reading “Team Geek“.

Right off the bat, the authors present this brilliant graphic:

Supposed To Vs Actual

D’oh! Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to become a good “team player“.

But why do group projects tend to teach mistrust instead of teamwork? Could it be because the ancient hierarchical structures and individual-centric reward policies baked into the vast majority of institutions demand an “it’s all about me” attitude?

Of course not. When someone is castigated by HR for not being a “rah-rah” team player, it’s because of personal failure – not because of dysfunctional organizational structures and policies, right?

What Would You Do?

December 28, 2011 1 comment

Assume that you’re working on a software system comprised of a set of core and peripheral application components. Also assume that these components rest on top of a layered set of common system libraries.

Next, assume that you remove some functionality from a system library that you thought none of the app components are using. Finally, assume that your change broke multiple peripheral apps, and, after finding out, the apps writer asked you nicely to please restore the functionality.

What would you do?

Effective And Ineffective

In the 50 year old book, “The Human Side Of Enterprise“, Douglas McGregor lists the attributes of effective groups as follows:

  1. The atmosphere is informal, comfortable, relaxed.
  2. There is lots of pertinent discussion and it stays on track.
  3. The group’s task is well understood and accepted.
  4. Members listen to each other and have no fear of looking foolish.
  5. There is disagreement and no conflict avoidance.
  6. Decisions are made mostly by consensus.
  7. Criticism is frank, frequent, relatively comfortable.
  8. Members freely express feelings on problems and group operation.
  9. Clear assignments are made and accepted.
  10. The group lead doesn’t dominate and there is no struggle for power.
  11. The group is self-conscious and periodically reflects on performance.

So, do you think this list is outdated and inapplicable in this day and age? How many effective groups have you had the privilege of participating in?

For grins, let’s look at an inverted version of the list:

  1. The atmosphere is formal, uncomfortable, tense.
  2. There is lots of impertinent discussion and it wanders all over the map.
  3. The group’s task is vague, undefined and thus, unaccepted.
  4. Members ignore each other and put on a mask of infallibility.
  5. There is no disagreement and conflicts are avoided.
  6. Decisions are made by authority
  7. Criticism is personal and uncomfortable.
  8. Members cover up and suppress feelings.
  9. No assignments are made and tasks fall though the cracks – accepted by no one or the ubiquitous “we”.
  10. The group head dominates and there is much politicking to curry favor.
  11. The group is unconscious.

Which of these lists feels more familiar to you?

There Are Lots Of “I”s In A Team

March 22, 2009 Leave a comment

“Sacred Cows Make The Best Hamburger”

Do you ever get tired of hearing the old and worn out management cry: “There’s no I in team!”. In this article, I’d like to challenge that unquestioned assumption.

The left-hand figure in the graphic below depicts a man-made group with a bunch of “I”s thrown together. Since the motto is “it’s every man for himself,” the group shouldn’t really be called a team. It’s more like a heap of individual and unconnected parts. In a heap, the whole is nothing more than the sum of the parts.


The figure in the middle of the graphic represents a group of people instilled with the “there’s no I in team” mentality. In this case, the group is more than the sum of its parts and it’s a much better problem solving structure than a heap of “I”s. However, because of the across-the-board homogeneity and lack of distinction between group members, the solutions produced by a group of “we”s are bland and mediocre, like unflavored oatmeal.

The figure on the right shows the ideal team. It’s composed of people who are motivated to succeed both individually and collectively. Relative to the other two types of groups, the team of “I + We”s is a super performer and it creates innovative solutions to problems. Thus, a high performing team is comprised of lots of “I”s.

Sadly, the vast majority of corpo organizations create hideous hybrid abominations like the one in the figure below. Yuk!


By; repeatedly espousing that “there’s no I in team!” to the doers sub-group; treating all work with the same apathetic reception regardless of relative quality; and punishing individual creativity; managers create and nurture a divided mediocracy. Of course, since they are the chosen ones, managers never follow the rules that they espouse for others. Thus, they are constantly and cleverly competing with their brethren for status and entitlement, operating as “I”s. It’s a good thing that the “we”s actually produce the outputs that allow the organization to survive, even though their products are mediocre and boring as hell.

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