I remember as a child the endless hours spent creating my own vision of reality with my GI Joes, my Matchbox cars, and my Tinker Toys. Taking the time to build my cities, forts, and military bases took high levels of passion, energy, and excitement. The stories I played with were limitless….invigorating…..and frustrating the minute my older brother became involved.

The inner working of my older brother’s mind was something of a complete mystery to me. Plainly he could see the massive buildup of my army soldiers with GI Joe leading the way. He just couldn’t seem to grasp the intricacies of modern warfare.

Such is the mind of a 10 year old child. Already it is set into motion to fear the melding of different ideas and visions.  How quickly this mindset can be equated to the work groups in the modern organization. If we as children were not prepared to work within team boundaries, we will more than likely carry this trait to our adult lives. If we examine many modern business structures we can see the similarities of parallel playing learned in early childhood as they apply to modern work groups.

Parallel playing brings to mind two or more distinct individuals playing in a room, but never playing or acknowledging the other individuals.  In the case of young children engaging in parallel playing, it becomes the responsibility of the adult to teach, guide, and show the child how to effectively work with other children. A leader in an organization is tasked with this same daunting challenge.

The early examinations into the importance of self-directed work teams had origins linking works of Shewart and the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) Cycle and the Deming Circle of continuous improvement help to identify the importance of why team building is essential in modern organizations in the building of quality, employee engagement, and employee accountability. Individuals who are involved within self-directed work teams have greater knowledge and understanding of the overall work processes of an organization.

The rationale of team building would seem quite obvious from reading this short blurb. What needs to be stated--adults in any organization are more difficult to flex into team building experiences. Levels of skepticism with some cultural/societal influences prevent some of the essential components of team building. The standard stages of forming, storming, and norming have been hampered by shifts in workplace personnel and staffing, and the strategic re-organization of corporate structures.

Because the modern business structure has evolved to its current standard, a leader must take additional steps to facilitate the essential tools-building blocks if you would like-are being given to every employee. A good manager will recognize solid teams don’t just happen; it is a consistent interaction with different members of the organization using different techniques of role play, class room training, and profile examinations.

A manager must become a leader by contributing to the effort of team building by showing the value of working towards a common goal, understanding the organization’s shared beliefs, and knowing that the success of the organization is not just the responsibility of one. What is necessary is best stated by quoting a movie franchise made famous by Gene Roddenberry:

“It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”

Any manager can see this logic. It takes a leader, a visionary, to see this logic and make it happen. What do you see?

April 11, 2012

Montgomery Beyer, MBA