A perspective of teamwork

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Over the past couple of decades, a cult has grown up around teams. Even in a society as fiercely independent as America, teams are considered almost sacrosanct. The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive is so widespread that when faced with a challenging new task, leaders are quick to assume that teams are the best way to get the job done”.

The quote is an extract from an article found online about team work. The text was written by Diane Coutu in an interview to J. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University.

What comes to my mind when reading part of the interview is: Why starting with such an statement? The expert, Professor Hackman, emphasizes basically that not all teams work the same way, as there are people that may not fill the requirements to achieve a specific obejective or not accommodated to the surrounding individuals.

Leaders act in teams in many ways: to keep a such called “balance” or to protect certain interests. This is evident in a society that is more driven by results than the actual well being of the people but, that may not be necessarily always the case.

As the experts explain, some may think that harmony is the most important factor when working with people, but reality is that some are accustomed to other ways.

People generally think that teams that work together harmoniously are better and more productive than teams that don’t. But in a study we conducted on symphonies, we actually found that grumpy orchestras played together slightly better than orchestras in which all the musicians were really quite happy”, Hackman. 

Teamwork plays a great role in our societies, as we depend on each other. There will be conflict, but there are ways to deal with that. Tony Alessandra, in his book Communicating at Work sustains that “Conflict arises from the clash of perceptions, goals, or values in an arena where people care about the outcome”. Quote taken from the online article Managing Team Conflict by Cynthia Phillips, where Alessandra is cited.

Phillips highlights that some common sources of group conflict are:

– Values of team members

– Attitudes of team members

– Goals/Expectations: the processes and expected outcomes

– Roles and responsibilities of team members

– Limited resources

– Personalities

– Interdependency

– Increased interaction (frequency)

These are only certain factors that affect team members and threfore, team performance. I think that we rely on “ways of doing things” to establish the validation of theories regarding what should be the best way when performing in a team or how a team can achive its goals. Reality is that there is struggle and success everywhere and that what worked for ones, may not work for others. Models should be learned to be understood, but never copied or emulated, because each team shall find its way.

By Fernando Aguilar @fjaguilarr




4 Comments on “A perspective of teamwork”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Fernando, that we should learn from models and attempt to create our own hybrids since each team composition is different.

  2. You raise many critical points about teamwork. Thank you for looking it from a different perspective.

  3. It’s really a challenge. Teamwork doesn’t matter the result is a process that can approach or separate people, affect our performance. Balance is key not model.

  4. Ivana! How nice to talk to you. I did not want to use the word “balance” because I think about the word harmony tied up with it and, as you know, I have trouble defining those words. What is clear is that there is conflict, the way we deal with that conflict is how the model is going to shape our work. In the end, it is about work, looking at work not as a burden, but as something that is inherent to all of us. Remember Marx…

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