I love driving.  I often tell people that driving is my reflection time.  I’ve been known to jump in my car and make a two-three hour drive for a dinner get together with friends.  And I can’t even count the number times while living in Lethbridge I’ve gone up to Calgary and back in a day.  Fun times – but can you imagine making drives like those without cruise control?!

A car’s cruise control system is more than a muscle-cramp-avoider on a long drive.  Cruise control is a great example of a dynamic, closed-loop control system (ya that’s a mouthful).  By constantly sending feedback on the car’s actual speed, a controller is able to adjust the throttle and offset any external forces acting on the car – like a steep hill.  This idea of creating a control system within a dynamic system is rooted in newtonian mechanics.

Say what?!  What does all this have to do with teams you ask?!  OK here’s the link – my train of thought so to speak.

Teams function best when there is open communication – constant feedback originating from all members not just some ‘leader’.  From a task-perspective, constant feedback is the backbone to healthy accountability.  When members give each other performance feedback a team builds trust.  From a relationship-perspective, constant feedback creates a supportive environment.  Individuals overcome personal fears and insecurities and are lifted by their teammates to a new level of performance.  Think about how you feel when your teammates shout out words of encouragement. Everyone likes praise.

So systems with complex, dynamic relationships function best when there is a steady stream of feedback.

Teams certainly are a much more complex organization than the traditional top-down command and control organizations of the past.  So for them to function properly they MUST have constant feedback.  Perhaps at first that feedback can come from an outside ‘coach’.  But to reach top performance a team must learn to give each other feedback themselves.

With ongoing constant feedback, a team is able to climb any obstacle it meets without any drop in momentum just like a car on cruise control approaching a steep hill.

edited August 11th, 2022 – originally posted June 12,2011

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