Perspectives on teams

November 27th, 2008  |  Published in Teams

Converting business opportunities into services or products tends to rely on people working together at some stage, so if you’re interested in making a difference to performance chances are you’re interested in making a difference with teams. Problem is teams are notoriously awkward to describe in any comprehensive and coherent manner which means that coming up with methods to influence them consistently is nigh on impossible – there are too many variables to make off-the-shelf recipes viable.

SiLO attempts to confront this complexity from a sense making point of view by offering a set of distinct perspectives on teams. The assumption being that choice in the way we make sense of team situations leads to flexibility in responding in ways that fit the moment: if you only have a hammer then every problem is a nail as the saying goes. The SiLO perspectives emerge from mapping two beliefs about teams with two modes of influence to give that comforting four box look and feel. The two beliefs about teams range from organisational to individual depending on whether you see a team as an entity in its own right or a collection of different people. Modes of change vary from direct (behavioural – e.g. coaching), to indirect (structural – e.g. changing contract terms).

This gives us four windows on a team:

  • the strategic context it finds itself interacting with
  • the pattern of interactions and relationships, both within the team and how it deals with other teams and stakeholders
  • the learning potential of the individuals in the team and the level of energy and commitment they elect to display
  • organising principles – the systems, disciplines and routines that team members use to shape working practice

Each window emphasises different values and beliefs, different notions of cause and effect and different choices about where best to invest your attention. This might sound like one of those recipes for choosing the right perspective for the situation but teams are too dynamic to be assessed in the abstract. Teams are living, real time, entities so influencing them is best seen as more like riding a bicycle than deciding the detail of each step in advance – making lots of small adjustments by being in touch, paying attention, making sense of what is happening and adjusting your input as best you can.

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