Building Successful Teams – An Introduction

Last week, we discussed the process needed in order to create successful teams. In this week’s blog, we investigate what makes a team ‘tick’ and function effectively.

At Schuitema Group, the work done on teams is based on the premise that one can account for the success of any group of people on the degree to which the individual in the group is unconditional in pursuit of the group’s objectives. For example, people normally measure the success of an enterprise based on the degree to which it has produced a profit or a surplus. The question to explore here is, how does this profit or surplus come to exist in the first place?

Understanding What Makes Successful Teams Successful

We use the example of the three bakers: 

Assume there are three bakers who work together in a bakery and together they bake a cake. At the end of the month each baker takes a slice home and the slice that is left over one could call a surplus.

The question is, why does this surplus exist in the first place?

Surely the surplus only exists because the total cake that was baked was bigger than what each individual baker took home. So, the question to ask here is, collectively have these bakers given more than what they have taken, or have they taken more than they have given? Clearly, they have given more than they have taken. That indicates that a group succeeds based on the degree to which the individual in the group is acting for reasons that are bigger than their self-interest.

This is true for any group. Military organisations succeed based on the degree to which the individual combatant commits to the cause, rather than being a conscript or a mercenary. Sport teams succeed based on the degree to which the individual player is willing to forgo his own agenda for the requirements of the team. When this does not take place then one does not have a team, one has a herd of cats.

It is very important to understand the nature of this capacity that people can and do have, to be here to make a contribution. It has very little to do with what people know or how they are equipped. One could give the three bakers the most advanced baking equipment or the most sophisticated baking training, if every one of them was a malevolent bastard who was here to get as much as he could for giving as little as possible, the group would still fail.

This suggests that being here to contribute really is not so much about what people know or how they are equipped; it is an issue of intent.

The next question is, then, how does one solicit the intent to contribute? We have argued very explicitly that people do not go the extra mile for organisations, they go the extra mile for people. We therefore claim explicitly that the key attribute that distinguishes successful from unsuccessful groups is the degree to which the leadership of the groups solicits the intent to contribute among the members of the group.

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