Teams – Teams – Teams.  Seems like everyone uses the word team these days – especially in business.  How many times do we hear managers (and I’m purposely not using the term leader – more on that later) talk about “their team”.

But the word team is not just a label to be used arbitrarily. Or worse, in place of other words like department.  Teams are a form of organization – a specific type of organization.  It bothers me that people use the wrong – albeit more fashionable – organization term to describe their organizations.

I mean really – what kind of look would I get from an accountant if I arbitrarily used the terms debit and credit.  Or from a baseball player if I called a strike a ball, and a ball a strike.  What world of trouble would I be in if as a participant in Chef Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen if I diced the carrots instead of doing a julienne cut as instructed? Every discipline – such as accounting, baseball, cooking – has its terminology. So does the field of organization design. A team is a specific type of organization – not a label.

I remember WAY back in the 80’s when I worked for General Motors. (I’m not picking on GM as this example could just as easily happened in any large business of the day).  The higher-ups decided to convert one of our more seasoned (read – difficult) areas of the plant into a – yup you got it – ‘team’.

The equipment in that area was painted blue – a nice change from the dingy drab pea-soup industrial green normally used – in preparation of the change.  And all the technicians were given a new dark blue shop jacket with CRANK TEAM emblazoned on the back.

The big launch day comes and at the kick off meeting all the technicians showed up in their new jackets – with one symbolic change.  Everyone had cut the word TEAM off the back of their jackets.

So much for that initiative.  Killed before it was even launched.

But how common is this?  Maybe not this noticeable or to this extreme but how many times do we see organizations try to launch new ‘teams’ by simply creating a little fanfare and calling everyone one. Heck, organizations have been doing this for so long most don’t even bother with the fanfare. Mangers simply call their organization a team – and no-one thinks twice about it.

Well we should! There is much, much more potential in this unique and simple – yet oddly complex – organizational structure called a team.  And this site will reveal all of it.

edited June 1st, 2020 – originally posted March 6th, 2011

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