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Team development models, systems and workshops are gaining increasing popularity in our organisations, and with good reason, for “the team” is ultimately the organism that delivers the outcomes desired by the organisation’s key stakeholders. Yet too often we embark on team development programs without first appreciating and respecting the incredible complexity of the system we refer to as “team”.
Every team operates within a complex and multifaceted network of relationships and expectations. The speed and scope of technology, the sheer scale of human activity, and the belief that we will continue to achieve ever more with depleting resources creates an intricate backdrop for all human activity. Within this global network, we operate in multiple personal networks: community, family, work, religion, friendships and so on. Each system shapes our beliefs and skills, each morphs and evolves with time, each creates tension with the others, setting up conflicting expectations and convictions. Even within the organisation itself individuals will operate within multiple networks: functional groups, divisional silos, social networks, leadership teams. It is worth remembering that the team you have decided to “develop” is just one small part of this complex system in which each of its members operates.
To further complicate the equation, at the same time as we are adapting to multiple networks, we are also trying to self actualize: to establish our sense of individuality and purpose. We continue to play within the team for our own complex set of reasons. To understand the team one must recognize the individuality of each of its members and their unique drivers. Frank comes to work for social status, Mary needs the income to keep her kids in private school, Angela seeks a sense of belonging. A simplistic view perhaps, but it is important to remember that we do not all play on ‘the team’ for the same reasons or with the same expectations.
Do you remember the movie The Matrix? In the film we discovered that human reality was a dream and that, without realizing it, humans were all part of a complex energy system fueling machines. With the exception of a brave few, most people operated within their own reality, completely unaware that the ‘Matrix’ even existed. Unfortunately the same can often be said of ‘the team’. Given the intricate and unique web within which our individual beliefs and aspirations are formed it is hardly surprising that tensions exist within communities, organisations and teams. Yet most people are unable or unwilling to step back from their individual perspective and attempt to understand the broader matrix, to see the strands and filaments that are woven into other team members.
In the movie the hero takes a little red pill and is suddenly able to learn the truth of The Matrix. Sadly, no red pill is available for our organisations’ leaders. However, before embarking on a team development program it is recommended that leaders study the matrix: consider the influence of global forces, community and organizational demands on your team; take account of the individual perspectives and objectives that you and each member brings to the team; appreciate and respect the complexity of this being we call ‘the team’.
Posted by Graham Richardson
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