Thursday, June 2, 2011

What is a Team?

By Pascal Dennis

In my view, a team is an organized group of people with a clearly defined goal.

"Organized" means team members have clearly defined & interconnected roles -- which in turn, depends on shared purpose.

In the absence of latter, our discourse inevitably devolves into random opinions, factoids and, often, recrimination.

"If only those bozos in... would do their jobs!"

Shared purpose shifts our thinking. "Just how are we going to achieve that objective?"

(Or that "target condition" -- tip of the hat to Mike Rother)

What sort of objectives are most compelling & effective?

Objectives that are just beyond the capability of the team.

(I've found that it's better to err on the side of too aggressive objectives, than the other way)

These compel collaboration. "We hang together -- or separately."

Teamwork, therefore, entails interdependency.

Lean factories are organized such that team members in adjacent work zones can help one another and communicate freely.

Work thus becomes a relay race -- if need be, the faster runner can help the slower runner in the baton transfer zone.

(It triggers problem solving too. "Why is the team member always behind? Is it our layout, ergonomics, part fit...?)

Lean offices should be laid out this way too.

I've seen finance, insurance, order fulfillment teams achieve remarkable performance levels thereby.

I've described some of the more visible aspects of teamwork.

The invisible is as important.

Teams are connected by values -- shared standards of behaviour.

John Wooden's "sets of three" are good examples:
  • Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal.
  • Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't make excuses.
Tough standards! (For me at least...)

But when a group of people is aligned around values, life becomes more predictable & they can relax.

That's another element of teamwork -- security.

Best regards,


  1. All our plans fall apart in the hands of dysfunctional teams

  2. Well said Pascal!
    Seems to me that you've described teams like a system. A set of interconnected parts with a common purpose.
    Without the common purpose we have chaos as Desi says all our improvement plans fall apart.