Do not confuse teamwork and parallelization of work
During a recent discussion on the qualities sought in candidates, someone told me “today what companies want are people who are good at teamwork because now that’s how it is. ‘we work “. A blank followed this sentence. A bit as if all of a sudden some had just realized that there was something wrong with the statement.
Collaboration, cooperation, teamwork … words that are often used in place of others to say “people who work together”. But which cover very different realities. How many managers have I seen confuse setting up teamwork and making a team work.
Make a team work or make a team work?
To function by sports analogy, teamwork supposes interactions between one and the other. Football or basketball are team sports. The players pass a ball to each other, compensate (or attempt to do so) for each other’s mistakes, position themselves in relation to each other, in short adapt constantly to what others (and their opponents) are doing. And they talk to each other to adapt. The collective is not the sum of individualities. It can be higher or lower.
Next, let’s take rowing. No interaction, everyone knows exactly what to do. Each produces its effort in parallel with that of the others. So of course you need coordination, everyone should ideally be in the same rhythm. No need to talk to each other. But in the end the collective is the result of the sum of individual efforts.
Of course, the comparison is a bit simplistic, but it is the analogy that counts.
In one case teamwork, in the other parallel work. What about cooperation? I can’t help but tell you about the relay race and offer you this earthy video by Yves Morieux. Watch from 3.36 although I advise you to see the video in its entirety (and to buy his book).
Let’s talk about the company again.
Depending on the type of task, depending on the job, what we need is teamwork or cooperation. What we still see far too often is parallelization. In parallelization, the manager does not work in a team but makes a team work.
Many teams live together but separate rooms.
What is the difference ?
People don’t work together but individually. We can possibly say that they work together if they are in the same room but they would be miles from each other it would be the same. Common life but separate room.
The manager distributes the work and consolidates. In teamwork everyone is aware of the final goal and how each contributes to it. In parallel work, this is desirable but not necessary: everyone does their task in their own corner without having to worry about what the others are doing.
We do not exchange and we do not adapt together, we are not in permanent collective adjustment. Instead we report to the superior who decides on the adjustments.
The teamwork ? Fiction in many places
The fundamental difference is the manager’s vision of his role. In one case, he sets objectives, leads, lets the teams find solutions, helps them find them, in the other he organizes, controls and resolves collective problems. In one case the interactions are within the team, in the other mainly between the members of the team and the manager.
When I see the number of teams where ultimately people exchange little, little or no decisions are made by the team but by the manager, there is still room before teamwork becomes a reality everywhere .
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader in Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.