Team Success and Having a Benevolent Intent

To make sense of the title of this article it is important to wrap one’s head around two things. Firstly, what is a benevolent intent and how does it apply to organizations? Secondly, how does a benevolent intent affect team performance and contribute towards success within a team?

Benevolent Intent

The issue of benevolent intent operates on two levels. First, there is the issue of the benevolent intent of the organisation, and then there is the issue of the benevolent intent of the team. This second issue is, in a sense, a subset of the first.

From an organisational perspective, it is extremely important to have a firm grasp of the benevolent intent of the organisation.

All organisations only continue to thrive on the basis of the contribution they make. In a business context, this means serving customers in a manner that genuinely contributes something to the lives of customers. The benevolent intent of the organization essentially describe the contribution the organization makes to the world. It tells us how the organization makes the world a better place.

Like organizations and businesses, teams can have a benevolent intent. Organisations are essentially just collections of teams. Importantly, the benevolent intent of the team must have a line of sight to the benevolent intent of the organisation.

The maintenance team in a GSK Pharmaceutical operation for example may have the benevolent intent of keeping the operation running faultlessly so as to ensure that they are able to produce medicinal products to spec in order to save lives and promote the health of customers.

The question now is how having a benevolent intent clearly articulated within a team affect team performance.

To answer this we must remind ourselves of the golden rule for team success. Successful teams are made up by team members that are committed to making extra mile contributions for the success of the team. Having a benevolent contributes to this because it makes people’s contributions meaningful and gives their role purpose. It gives them a reason that is noble enough to go the extra mile for. Let’s examine what this actually looks like:

The Individual’s Task is Related to the Overall Intent of the Team

Let’s review our GSK operator. If we want to be assured that his job is meaningful to him, we need to tease the following logic out of him:

Q: “Why do you run the operation according to a standard operating procedure?”

A: “So that we produce the right amount of product to specification.”

Q: “Why should the product be to specification?”

A: “Well, if the drugs do not comply to specification, they don’t save the lives we wish to save.”

What this means is that the operator must see the line of sight between the task and the overall benevolent intent of the enterprise. Only once this line of sight has been established do we have a meaningful task. The difference between a meaningful and a meaningless task is not how menial it is. The difference lies in whether it contributes to others.

If the member of the team is to go the extra mile for the requirements of the team, then going the extra mile must be meaningful. What makes it meaningful is that the intent of the task is worthy, is benevolent. So, effective teams are teams where the individual in the team not only understands the benevolent intent of the team, but s/he also sees how the executed task contributes to that intent.

A subset of this issue is the issue of measures. Measures are helpful because they enable the team member to quantify the degree to which they are going the extra mile. These measures are only helpful, however, when they measure what the team can influence. This suggests that measures should operate on two levels.

First, there are measures that are concerned with the overall effectiveness of the team, and then there are measures that reflect the key variables under the control of individuals in the team.

Follow our blog next week as we continue to understand what makes teams successful.

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