Teams and teamwork are a lot about choice and choices. Teams will often choose NOT to collaborate if they feel that competition offers them more benefits. But does competition really do much to support overall organizational results. More often than not, the answer is that competition measurably sub-optimizes organizational results. Clearly.
I tried to collect some of the key articles around performance and teamwork in this annotated blog of my best posts on our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can see them by clicking on the image below:
We often ask tabletops to discuss various real world perceptions after playing our team building exercises. Here are some thoughts of participants after playing, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on issues of inter-table collaboration and communications:
Why do teams compete when collaboration obviously offers more impacts and benefits?
- Evaluation and Reward Systems do not support it
- Organizational objectives are unclear
- Human Nature – we are competitive
- Past Experience precludes collaboration and has rewarded competition
- Lack of a Trust or Relationship with others
- It takes extra time and effort to do it
- Benefits of collaboration not supported by leaders
- Impacts and payoffs are not obvious
- Conflict may generate discussion of realities and produce creativity
- Teams do not have a history or experience with doing collaboration or generating better impacts by it
What did you learn about teamwork and communications from playing the exercise?
- There is a need for networking
- Small teams work better than committees / larger teams
- Someone needs to take on the role of team leader
- We must compromise individually and collaborate collectively to succeed
- Don’t dominate – listen to others views
- THINK COLLABORATION and Trust
- Share a common goal
- Share Ideas and Information
- Plan before Acting
- Have a division of labor and roles and think creatively
- Initiate support from others
- Have Empathy for others
- Identify others’ needs
- Be Creative
- Be a good listener
- Build on others’ ideas
- Recognize Interdependence
- Move quickly, take some risks
- We probably have sufficient resources – use them wisely
In this game, most people do not ask for help, which also happens in the workplace. Why don’t most teams ask for or get the active leadership of their managers?
- We are conditioned by education, bad experiences and culture
- Personality (we’re not proactive but quiet)
- We’re too involved in our own work and forget the existence of the “Expedition Leaders”
- We’re afraid of losing time, thus we suboptimize results
- We are really not clear of our roles or the Leader’s role
- There is a fear of losing Face (ego, insecurity)
- There is an assumption that not asking means we get all of the praise and recognition for our good performance / ability
- “Us and Them” mentality — Leader is not part of team
- No access to them – can’t get their time so why ask
- It’s not part of the rules of how we play
- Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled
Some Key Learning Points for engaging and involving people in performance improvement:
- Visions are critical for motivation
- Motivation occurs when people share risks, goals and objectives
- Teams are “naturally” competitive and processes must actively drive collaboration and cooperation
- Teams only reluctantly ask Expedition Leaders for advice.
- Leadership must clearly communicate with directness and honesty. They need to be perceived as supportive.
- Justify the need for collaboration as it influences corporate profitability and improvements in systems and practices.
- Identify the mud that is bogging teams down and wasting resources.
- Insure that each participant knows his or her role on the team and their importance to the overall results — make sure each team member feels that their efforts are of value.
How does this exercise and debriefing link to improving organizational results?
- Collaborative, overall effort is needed to achieve Company Goals
- Plan – Do – Check – Action
- Collaboration is essential
- Manage your processes with effective allocation of resources
- Do It Right The First Time – there are few second chances in reality
- Highlight the internal customer concept – we depend on each other
- All of us is better than Some of US!
The competitive aspect of the game:
How might it be harmful in an organization?
- Not sharing information for personal reasons will sub-optimize overall results
- Damaging relationships and trust
- Duplication of efforts
- Not utilizing resources in best or optimal way
- Sub-optimization — Not seeing whole picture
- Undermining the efforts of others
Overall, competition is harmful because it is not maximizing company results or the performance by the largest number of people. Competition works for the competitive and not for everyone. Discussing these issues and opportunities in the context of collaboration and communications offers the chance that people may choose to behave differently, or at least be more aware of how they are influencing others in their workplace.
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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.