United intent: teams not groups

1st March 2007
Simon Baker

I’ve seen groups of people masquerading as teams. But I don’t believe that they are teams. There isn’t a team spirit. They’re simply groups of people that have been asked, or more likely told to work together on something.

You don’t build teams. You grow them. And in the right environment their growth is a natural phenomenon. As a team grows, you start to see cohesion. The people in the team bond and jell and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. In self-organising teams it’s understood that it’s better to succeed together than to succeed because of some individuals and not others.

A team grows around a shared vision or goal accompanied by shared criteria that define success. (These should be set out in a charter, constructed by and unanimously agreed to by the whole team, i.e. every single person in the team, at the very start of the project).

A vision that is shared unites the people in the team and focuses their intent. They pursue the attainment of their vision, together, with gusto. You see mutual support begin to develop and you see solidarity and collective ownership.

As people work together they tune into one another. As they make commitments to one another and hold one another accountable to their commitments, mutual trust develops and they begin to experience the camaraderie of being part of a team. The team begins to develop an identity. People in the team gain a sense of belonging, they feel part of something powerful and perhaps unique. They demonstrate loyalty to the team. People motivate themselves. They enjoy their work and they have fun. There’s a healthy aura as interactions are confident and convivial. Friendships form and often extend to regular social activities beyond work. People work better and achieve results because they’ve got momentum.

Tom Demarco said:

A team can become an almost unstoppable juggernaut for success. Managing these juggernaut teams is a real pleasure. You spend most of your time just getting obstacles out of their way.

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