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Commentary: The magic of teamwork
Published on July 6, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Oliver Mills

Managers in organizations have always spoken of the need to work in teams, to ensure greater productivity through responsibility sharing, using the unique competencies of each member to advance the interest of the entire organization. It is believed teams make things happen quickly and efficiently, produce workable ideas because of the different skills it possesses, and minimize mistakes. Is there then a magic to the way teams operate? Is the way they work constructive, or disruptive?

Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and Training, University of Leicester. He is a past Permanent Secretary in Education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
The Harvard Business Review in one of its Executive Summaries (March-April 2017), looks at the personality types that make up a team, and their working styles. It mentions four of these. Pioneers, who value possibilities, and ignite energy and imagination. Guardians, who value stability, and bring order and rigour. Drivers, who value challenges, and generate momentum. And Integrators who value connection, and draw teams together.

I agree that pioneers as a personality type value possibilities and stimulate the imagination, but they also bring possibilities to reality. They are forward looking, and seek new ways and methods to accomplish things, to gain competitive advantage. And they use their imagination to divine extraordinary models of how things ought to work to realize maximum results, and benefits.

Pioneers bring new and different ways of looking at and seeing what is possible, to produce an end result, which transforms situations for the better. They contribute to progress that benefits society and humanity as a whole, and this happens in many fields. Is this not an example of the magic of teamwork? And is it not then constructive?

Teamwork is at the root of these new developments, since the different skills of team members combine to make a success of the endeavor. Different perspectives, interpretations, and ways of analyzing combine into a final comprehensive product more fit for purpose than the activities of any one individual.

But teams could also disagree to the extent that a potential implosion results, and individuals move in different directions. Also the contributions made about what something means, or portends, could create groups within the team which do not share a unified view.

This may require further deliberations and a change of strategy to arrive at a consensus. But is consensus a substitute for the truth? Are teams therefore disruptive, and in instances constructive too?

And what about guardians as a work style? To me, having guardians who value order and stability could work both ways. Stability could mean modest progress, a slow movement to the desired goal, and little innovation which does not cause too much disruption to replace what is not working. This causes the organization to be uncompetitive, lose the creativity game, and results in a situation where business as usual becomes the norm. “Steady as you go” is a recipe for a company becoming frozen.

But order and stability in teams could also mean a check on what is seen as irrational, bringing balance to a situation which could very well get out of control. It means a prudent guide to what is pragmatic and workable without resulting in organizational deficits across the board. Order and stability harness what is positive in attempts at innovation, and contributes to creativity being more responsible and realistic.

Having guardians as a team ingredient where work style is concerned, means company entrepreneurship is assured, and that the company will avoid the shoals and reefs which are a part of following any course a company charts. Teamwork could be magical, but is it also positively constructive and disruptive as well? Is having it both ways possible?

I concur with the view of teams comprising drivers as a work style, and that they value challenges, and generate momentum. I view drivers in the team sense as moving things forward, exerting mild pressure to get things done while respecting individual personalities. Drivers help to exert enthusiasm and foster energy to accomplish goals. They goad the team into action. Generating momentum ensures benchmarks are met, and time is managed so that desired results are achieved in good measure.

But could drivers as a work style become somewhat authoritarian, and so turn off others, causing some to leave the team? Could they therefore become disruptive? When drivers value challenges, does it include those that could disrupt the system, or do drivers seek to moderate extreme elements to enable a better organizational fit, to better achieve set objectives? Are they playing a constructive role here? And is this the magic of teamwork?

Where integrators as a teamwork style is concerned, which bring teams together, I think this workstyle is important, and could serve a productive purpose. There is a need in organizations, and in decision-making, to pull things together at critical points, to avoid arbitrariness, and give focus to the process. The Integrators’ style makes this possible, and also pulls different positions and perspectives back on track, so that the greater good is realized.

Integrators are necessary for cohesion, and for making efforts comprehensive. Common methods and communications are therefore used, to facilitate greater understanding. When everyone is on board, the company benefits, and the process is validated. Is this constructive, productive, or neither? Does it reflect the magic of teamwork, or expose its complications?
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