Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Teams: Part of Something Larger

I've been writing a lot about teams--and you might surmise that I believe teams are the major cog in what happens in the world. And while I do believe this, it is important to remember that teams have a place. I was reading an article in Worship Leader magazine recently which reinforced the idea that teams are part of something larger and that it is critical for teams to recognize their relationship to the larger entity.

I've been on a journey lately piecing together a lot of seemingly disparate things which have occurred in my life with respect to teams. I was a dedicated member of a team, and was one of the team's co-leaders, when it became apparent to me that I was not being effective and that I was creating a lot of stress for myself and the other co-leaders, with the result that the team was spinning its wheels. It was time for me to move on. I had become: "that guy." The one who never seems to agree, the one who always wants to try something different than what the team is doing, the one trying to "push the envelope" (a test pilot term) and the guy who probably became the stumbling block of the team due to having a different vision than the other co-leaders of the team. What I forgot to remember was what I read on an airplane last Saturday while zooming off to vacation in Florida for two weeks--teams are part of something larger.

Teams are the operational, or tactical level of organizations. Teams are where the work of the larger organizations happens and where the strategies decided at echelons above reality (or upper management) are implemented. Teams are the bridge from the organizational strategic level to tactical operations--where the work of the larger organization is done. To put it in military terms--teams are where the hills are taken that the generals decide need to be taken.

In reading the article in Worship Leader magazine by Glen Packiam, I was struck by the simplicity of his statement and how easy it is to overlook: "The best teams are the ones that understand that they are part of something far greater than themselves."

Think about it. I follow the Baltimore Orioles baseball team and the Baltimore Ravens football team every season. Each of these teams are part of the larger leagues to which they belong. In my workplace, the Operations Team I used to run was part of the larger organization. Success or failure was measured by how well the larger organization fared based upon its annual goals. Other teams to which I have belonged are each part of something larger and the critical factor is to ensure the teams activities contribute to the larger success of the bigger organization.

It is possible for a team to feel successful, but to actually fail in supporting the larger organization to which it belongs. The teams goals and measures of success must be properly aligned with the greater organization, else divisiveness will ensue. An old adage is that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" but in today's environment it is more often that the "squeaky wheel" gets sold off or terminated because they are not contributing to the larger goals of the organization or are consuming too many resources for the value.

Teams are the operational implementing arm of the larger organization. Team leaders must remember this and work hard to ensure that this is passed on to each of the team members and that there is a tight relationship between the team and the organization/entity to which they belong.

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