More frequently, “Teams Fall Apart” prematurely or otherwise. According to William Butler Yeats’s poem further propagated by Chinua Achebe’s famous literature, “Things Fall Apart When The Centre Cannot Hold”. If I could define “centre” in this context, it would mean “purpose of existence”. While reasons for team separation may differ, PURPOSE unknown or undetermined and respected would often lead to inevitable ABnormalUSE or MISguidedUSE. So the purpose is the centre upon which a team is founded.

By definition, a team is “a group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal.” (Wikipedia). Professor Leigh Thompson of the Kellogg School of Management defines it as “a group of people who are interdependent… who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a common goal”.

Quite important to note, “a group of people” does not constitute a team unless such “seek to achieve a common goal”. It goes to infer that partnerships, relationships, friendships and whatever kind of “-ship” are either

i. teams comprising two or more persons who seek, by their alliance, to achieve a “common goal” that would ultimately define or destroy them; OR

ii. a group of persons in close proximity.

Summarily, the primary success factor of a team is “The Purpose/Common Goal”. Also, a team can NOT comprise just one individual. Hence, it can NOT be the singular responsibility of one individual in the team to make it work.

NOTED!

So, why WHY DO “TEAMS FALL APART?” I don’t like complex texts, but I promise this would be an insightful read.

I spent the longest time of my career as a Human Resources professional and in that space, it is almost impossible not to talk about or work with teams, whether functional, cross-functional, self-managed or virtual teams. One of the best strategies frequently consulted and extensively engaged in organisational team reviews is Bruce Tuckman’s intelligently crafted team development dynamics. I dare say that the model applies suitably to every kind of “-ship”.

So, here is my analysis of the five phases of Bruce Tuckman’s globally acclaimed team dynamics.

Stage One – FORM

Majorly referred to as the “Honeymoon phase”, this is the story behind it –

Boy meets girl or vice versa, girl likes boy or vice versa, for many reasons most of which are perceived by sight, sound and/or experience. Both are enthused, maybe one more than the other, but both think it’s a good, great or not-so-bad idea to “get serious” together. Picture the same for business partners or focus groups. Same rhetoric, different dynamic, i.e. no emotional love interests, just business and potential ROI – Return On Investment.

So, the boy and girl decide to ally with a “common cause” (goal, purpose). There should always be a cause. To define that “cause”, they must ask tonnes of questions to unearth all ambiguities and paint a clear picture of what the “it” would look like before signing the ROE – Rules of Engagement that bind the alliance. Questions like “Why are we allying?”… “What do we want to achieve?”… “How do we want to achieve it?”… “When should we have achieved it?”… “What will happen if we don’t achieve it?”… “What will be our common values?”… “What will be our beliefs?”… “How long would the alliance last for?”… “What will we mutually benefit from it?…

However, if there is no mutual understanding and agreement between the parties regarding the purpose/the cause/the goal, then there should be no alliance. But if there is, psst… tie up the nuptial knot already; the guests await their “party Jollof” (a Nigerian premium festive dish).

Stage Two – STORM

Considered to be the conflict phase, it is the toughest of all the stages and can be the Bermuda Triangle of any “~ship”. Plagued with a clash of opinions, cultures, undetected beliefs, fears, insecurities, values and perspectives, this is where the boy realises that girl’s quick inclination towards mood swings has a gearbox with six changes behind that pretty “damsel-in-distress”-look. And oh, she realises too that he wouldn’t give up hanging out with his buddies on a football night but would even sleep over there to peak out the fun. After all, that’s when the “BIG SHOTS” come out to play, and he has to be visible within their space to remain in the suitable corridors to keep cash flow steady for the home.

The boy and girl soon realise that it’s not all pancakes, syrups and cherries but some heavy metal, hit-the-ground-running or get-hit-by-the-stray-bullet battlefield. What a rude awakening to a view of just sky and sea with only two options –

Swim or Sink!

But how do they swim when they neither planned, anticipated, nor prepared for such?

Sooner, a conflict of perspectives intensifies – “I didn’t know it would be this way!”… “This is not what I signed up for!”… and turns around to become a conflict of personalities“You lied to me!”… “This is not who I thought I knew!”… “I can’t trust you!”… The focus shifts and the purpose/cause/goal becomes obscured by unpleasant emotions of hurt from words carelessly communicated and actions poorly executed, thereby leaving feelings of disappointment, misrepresentations, and a gamut of issues. A cancerous sore is now festering between Red-World-Sweet-Girl and Blue-World-Fine-Boy who must now decide – to CHANGE for the better interest of the goal or REMAIN THE SAME. The outcome of remaining the same is evident. But what will CHANGE look and feel like?

Stage Three – ADJOURN

This phase happens when they choose to remain the same. No one shifts to see the other one’s perspective or takes a different position to see from a new angle. It’s a “Me” and “I” phase centred on “How I feel!”… “How I see!”… “What happened to me!…” “What I believe!”… “What I have always known”… “How I was raised!”… “What I want!”… “What makes me happy!”…

Persistence on this soon leaves a severe strain on the team and a detour to an undetermined place of estrangement that could lead to the potential annulment of the alliance.

Stage Four – NORM

Here, just like the most constant thing in life, the team members go for “CHANGE” and begin to consider each other’s peculiarities and explore alternative ways to collaborate amicably. With a better understanding of the definition of a team being “a group of people with different skills and different tasks, who work together on a common project to achieve a common goal, there is renewed mutual respect for individual peculiarities/differences and a stronger focus on areas of mutually beneficial collaboration. They recognise that no one cures the sick tree by cutting the fruits but by fixing the roots. By changing how they see, they take a new perspective to recognise the significant value that the other party brings to the team. They recognise that rough wood needs rough sandpaper to make it the smoothest and most refined surface for the paint or varnish to lay nicely. Similarly, as Teeth may occasionally bite the Tongue during zealous mastication, they stick together regardless to achieve the ultimate buccal cavity goals. Progressively sustaining the team, hence, would require a re-visit of the F-phase – to review, realign perspectives and re-enact the ROE.

When this phase has been achieved successively, they may now proceed, TOGETHER, to the next phase to…

PERFORM! – Stage Five

It’s CRUISE MODE! With goal(s) reactivated and aligned perspectives, it becomes a Purple-Sweet-World-Alliance (boy’s blue lenses carefully merged with girl’s red). Because “The TEAM is ONE in thought, purpose and action”, NOTHING that they decide on, agree and align with to achieve, shall be IMPOSSIBLE.

So they SOAR! And from experience, regardless of the disruptions that may still await in the curve ahead, they know how to return to Stage 1 to reignite THEIR CAUSE and reconsider whether to AGREE and continue, REFRAME, or DISAGREE and discontinue. In this stage, no matter what comes or goes, no matter what gives in or doesn’t they NEVER give up on the TEAM until they win TOGETHER. Like the wheels of the bus, they keep on going, round and round until they reach the mutually agreed place of TEAM SUCCESS.

What is the current stage of your “-ship”? Relationship? Friendship? Marriage? Business Partnership? etc. Are you TOGETHER or APART?

StephREDD

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