Teamwork for real?

(I have much to say about the Certified ScrumMaster Workshop that just ended yesterday.  This topic is burning my thoughts for some time now so it comes first!)

Everyone “Does” Teamwork

Recently I have been participating in the interview process for a technical position.  The opening is on a customer engineering support team.  Another of the participants consistently asks the candidates that well known question:

Do you work well on a team?

If you have spent any time at all on either side of the hiring table, the “team player” or “teamwork” question seems to be a constant.  Every company I can think of talks of teams, creates teams, reorganizes teams and seeks out new employees who will be team players.  That’s because every company says they like teamwork and want more of it.

A Brief Definition

What is teamwork?  I suppose this should be a well known term since every company wants and has it.  Here are a few points that are part of teamwork to me:

  • The members of the team works together for long periods of time every day.
  • They are aware of what each one is doing from day-to-day and even hour-to-hour.
  • Members have no fear of asking for help and many times don’t need to ask, it just comes.
  • Members trust each other to do the right thing, feel able to honestly express problems and receive negative content in full assumption of positive intent.
  • New work is discussed and planned with the whole team involved.
  • If one member fails, the whole team takes responsibility.
  • If one member succeeds, that member will praise the team for the work.

In other words, the team is a unit with members providing support and strength to achieve far more than expected.  2+2=∞.

Real Teamwork

There is a simple question to ask that can indicate if a company really promotes teamwork or not.  It’s not a litmus test but a good way to start thinking about true teamwork support:

For example: A manager looks at work that needs to be done, decides the individual that should do that work and assigns that task to that specific person.  If that is the usual way of getting someone working on a task, it is questionable that the company really supports teamwork.  In contrast, a manager that looks at work and chooses between several teams for assignment is probably in a company that promotes real teamwork.

A companies actions are what creates culture and the values, not words in a slogan or questions in interviews.  The everyday actions while doing the work have to reflect the values.

True teamwork is powerful and fragile.  If teamwork is important, act in ways that re-enforces and champions them!

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