June 29, 2012
Dr. Greg Waddell
Manchester United vs. Arsenal at Old Trafford, UK. October 1967
Have you ever been part of a team that just didn’t work out? It can be frustrating. Teams can get mired in petty battles between strong personalities, members who fail to carry their load, and time-consuming meetings. Why even consider working on a team?
Why not follow the adage: “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? The fact is, you can’t do it yourself as well as you could if you were a part of a good team. Effective teams are difficult to put together and poor teams derail easily. But they are worth the effort. Consider the following benefits of teams:
- Teams make a greater impact. Teams can bring individual differences together to create results greater than the sum of the individual contributions.
- Teams learn faster. When vigorous debate and honest dialog are the norm, your views are exposed to the critique of the other members. This creates a process of trial by fire where ideas are questioned from different angles. The ones that survive are often better than those conceived and developed by a single individual.
- Teams can be more creative. A team composed of the right mix of individuals with diverse views, cultures, and experiences can be a catalyst for creative thinking. When they learn to cooperate and communicate well, the team’s abilility multiplies. The input of different ways of thinking challenge status quo processes and programs and alternative approaches can be explored.
- Shared responsibility reduces the pressure of working alone. Teams can provide mutual support as the members face the pressures of time constraints, quality demands, and unforeseen obstacles. Shared responsibility also means shared accountability because the decisions and actions of one member affect the performance of the entire team.
- Team decisions are more likely to be carried out. Though the process of making decisions as a team is slower than top-down decision-making, the process of implementation is more streamlined because you already have buy-in from those who will be doing the work. Decision-making in teams may become cumbersome, however, leading to cynical reactions like “The only committee that gets anything done is a committee of one.” But, if the team stays focused on performance, then time dedicated to decision-making will pay off in the execution of those decisions.
Teams are not the solution for every situation; critical and time-constrained problem may require you to make a decision on your own. For many tasks, however, teams are the better option.
I would love to hear from you. What are some benefits to teams that I have missed? What has been your experience?