Team . Why ? What ? How ?
Traditionally team is defined as
"a group of people who work together at a particular job". Team is an important concept in this world. Idea that to bring about an idea from conception to all the way to deliver it needs group of people together to participate. Take the real world examples from the past,
- iPod design
- Apple App Icons
- Braun's design thoughts
- Any product that is available today in this world
All these are not done just by one person, always there is a rarity, an outlier but more than the uncommon, anything of importance in this world is created by group of people coming together with common goal. So I am a common reader and participant of a team always questioned concept of team and this is my thought being poured digitally.
Why we need a team is my constant question, can't we get things done in the pace I want to move. so want to write down pros and cons of a team from my experience of it.
- Get more things done in short span of time. This is obvious right
- Get multiple ideas going at the same time.
- Sharing of ideas
- weakness of one member can be made up by strength of the another in the team
- Grooming and mentoring can be possible only in the team
- Learning by seeing others work from a close proximity is a boon for junior team members and equally for peers
- Specialization is something you can afford when there is a team
- You can always stay ahead of the curve with your competitors
- Invest in research and be progressive when you have a team
- Team can survive member loss and still have business continuinity.
- When you are part of a team you can have work-life balance
- Provide 24/7 support by having members taking turns and still every member is not burned out
- Stress and emotional support is possible when you are part of a team
- Work can always be reviewed and given feedbacks and eventually members learn from them
- New Ideas are possible and there more opportunity to implement them when you are in a team
- Socializing with your team members and helps you to create friendships
- Friendships within a team have given rise to partnerships and created big companies
- How can you be a king without people under you ( in a lighter vein )
These are some of the pros I can think of. There may be more and every domain and industry will have few more of them but above are more generic irrespective of field of operation.
So now that advantages of a team are clear, lets get to the cons of a team.
Before I want to mention the other side of having a team, I like to say these negatives can be mostly be addressed and fixed for good. But still we need to understand before we know what to fix. These are something I have seen and my own perspective
- Team needs lot of talking to do get things done. Bigger the company , more the communications are needed.
- Internal Politics
- Within a team you might have members with different sense of purpose, they might slow things down or distract the productivity.
- Individual Behavior
- If there is an aggressive behavior or slacker or a bully who turns out to be a senior can be a deterent to team's productivity
- Not reaching to a consensus can drag things out and slow down the progress
- Need to prove and convince other people in the team
- Constant need to prove your ideas to take it forward. ( I am not talking about approval of senior management. This is focused on the team)
- Meetings are required but too many of them can be a drag. You never will be in a flow if your calendar is packed
- We need this and also mentioned as pros but this is a disadvantage as well as it is easy to get pulled into conversation ( might not for remote worker though )
- Ratings / Promotions
- Oh this is a pain for team managers but when we see this from team we are going for one-to-one tagging. Members are put against each other and compared for their productivity, this can demotivate few members who do not fare well.
- Information Hoarding
- One member of a team can withhold information that makes the work not getting done in quality way
- Changes in direction/priority
- Team priorty changes due to business and other external factors which can make hard to convince team and loss of productivity. Again anything in moderation are ok but too many are the real problem makers.
- Skill and Growth
- Rapid updates of skill levels are not possible within the team, so we end up hiring to get them. Hiring is temporary solution than a long term one. Having team to get updated in their individual levels and continuous learning are something you cannot force upon.
- Though working as a team has good throughput but sometimes it is not always the case. Individual behaviors like slacking or dragging out things can slow things down and eventually team can be short of time to deliver
- Deliverable quality can suffer. Sometimes we rush to get things done. There are industries where this cannot be compromised but until this is one of the core values of the team this is bound to happen anywhere , anytime or always.
So these are something I have and seeing as a problem when you work in a team. Individual contributors may seem to have none of these above mentioned Cons of a team. But if you see they do have some of these.
Skill and Growth is an area which is common for team and an individual. Individual rate of growth and getting updated to the rapidly changing industry standards are quite difficult.
Team can quickly change directions ( not always as I mentioned it in cons ), individual contributors cannot quickly change and adapt to market.If someone argues they can , they are in different league.
Time is always a problem for individual contributors and sometimes a problem for teams.
So I see the cons of a team are pretty much their strengths. If Teams positives are controlled or overseen they can very well become their weakness and drag everyone down. So I am still thinking team is good option if you can afford to but keeping it minimal and focused are good for rapid progress. But How to handle these negatives, I cannot stop my thought after laying out positives and negatives. There is no worth in this kind of post or for my thinking.
so planning to write these things down as talking points for myself ( future self ). Let's see
Communication. There are various way this plays an important role.
- Team which doesn't identify good communication medium that works for the team is bound to fail. Like they need to figure out how to communicate and when to communicate. Constant distruption is bad for productivity and getting things done in the pace an individual and company would like to do
- Team which does not communicate will fail. Talking and involving others in the journey is important
- Team not being transparent about their communication for most part of their job will fail in longer term
Leadership is key for team, bad leadership will take away any of the above mentioned advantages of a team
- If your leader is not mentoring the team
- leader not trying to understand the individual behaviors and their motivations
- Leader not able to control bullying attitudes
- Leader needs to motivates and spend lot of time listening to their members and not being dismissive of them.
- Leader needs to have good intent of being there for team
Politics will play a spoilsport for a team. More the damage when it is within the team than from outside forces
- As before leader needs to stress the importance of transparent communication
- Team by itself needs to document all their activities and their work
- Be available for each other
- Trying to show off and being dismissive of others ideas
Members of a team not having common sense of purpose will make team to move in different directions and getting nothing much done
Team which is not following orders with grain responsibility and accountability is destined for short term success and long term failure
- To explain the short term success will be due to the freshness of ideas and motivation to show off the skills
- To short term success will also be due to experiments that might seem to payoff in quick span of time but ends up a failure in long term
- Accountability will produce Quality output and Responsibility will produce the output which stays close to the estimated time
Team needs feedback for growth.
- Team which is not analyzing the patterns of failed commitments will fail and is not productive and there is no reason that this team to exist
So Team can be pain most of the time managing it. We have managers and whole system surrounding Team. Team might look small but effect it produces it bigger than it is. Team need to focus on the process of producing high quality deliverables and system around it should make an effort on giving it enough freedom to do so.
In the end writing about team I just poured my thoughts and observations. I tried to keep the context of team in generic term applicable to any domain or industry but in the end team is just about people. Group of people coming together to work and accomplish certain task. We need to co-ordinate and share and give back to the team. If we can come close to this idealistic team, rest assured we can be certain that Team we are in is the best. I am not sure what this article helps about but certainly helped me to clear my thoughts on Team and why it exist and How a team can be a better one.