Teamocracy may be the worst form of people collaboration except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. Churchill said that of democracy as a form of government.
Our organizations have become teamocracies. Teams appear like mushrooms and stay for ever. Our default ‘concept-form’ of human collaboration is the team. We have equated team to a structure, which components and org chart can be powerpointed. Worse, we then equate the whole ‘team-concept-structure’ to a ‘meeting’. ‘Let’s bring this to the team’, often really means ‘let’s bring this to the meeting’. ‘Team equals meeting’ is a cancer. Team and meeting are forced marriage. The best team is the one that does not need to meet.
In the glorification of ‘team-the-noun-the-structure’, we have forgotten the verb teaming-up. We have been trapped in the structure ‘team’ for too long. We don’t need more teams, but we need more teaming up
‘Team concept’ feels very much at home in the sports arena. Also in the military and other places. But not all that collaborates and joins up is a team. Jesus Christ did not create a team of 12 apostles, not a high performance team certainly with a rather bunch of hopeless fishermen. There is no such a thing as a team of monks in an abbey. Or a team of a mother, father and 3 kids. We usually don’t refer to the family as a team. Except when the mother has left the father on his own with the 3 kids for the week end to go and visit her mum, and the father and the kids welcome her back with ‘we are a good team’. Which means we have just survived.
A sales team may be the least of a team you have. But the label accredits a bunch of possible individualistic employees, possibly paid by their individualist performance, with something bigger and glorious. Oh! Teamocracies! They rule the organizational and business world. We love them.
But here is the truth. Teamocracy is exhausted. But it does not dare to admit it. I suggest we give teamocracies a break, perhaps a sabbatical, dare I say prepare a retirement party.
There is plenty of evidence that a lot of good stuff takes place in the informal networks of the organization, not in the teams. If teamocracy is looking for a retirement package, networcracy comes in. It’s the network stupid.
‘We need a team to do X’, is the wrong start. ‘We need to do X, what behaviours do we need to have in place for that to happen?’, is the right one. Then, who needs to get involved, (which includes skills). Then processes. Then structure, with an open mind: from a bunch of people teaming up, to a network across the company, to (include) individuals tackling X with limited connectivity, to, yes, maybe, a new team. The team must not be the default, automatic pilot answer without critical thinking.
Can we put a moratorium on automatic new teams?
Trapped by the structure, freed by behaviours. Start with behaviours, and you will have a greater chance to decide if you need a team. Start with team, you’ll be a prisoner. There is a choice: team, the noun, the structure, or teaming up, the verb, the behaviour.