Mar 3, 2008

On teamwork

Prasad takes a close look at the term and the underlying assumptions about it. I agree that when clients come up with needs like interpersonal skills/teamwork that their people need to develop it is usually time for a deeper analysis, which they usually don't want to do:

when different people say 'team work' or 'team player' in a workplace context, they might be using the sports metaphor (team) with very different types of games in mind. Of course this can lead to a lot of misunderstanding. Actually, there additional complicating factors here. The tacit definition of 'team work' in highly individualistic cultures could be significantly different from that in collectivist cultures. It has also been observed that there could be gender related differences in the understanding of what makes one a good team player. Part of this could be because of the fact that young boys and young girls tend to prefer playing different types of games (e.g. war games and doll games - to use a stereotyped and possibly extreme example)! By the way, it is interesting to note that we can learn a lot about an individual/ team/ organization from the metaphors/expressions they use to describe key experiences.

It can be seen that, from a team effectiveness point of view, different types of team work are required in different workplace contexts. So it would be a good idea to analyse, understand and agree upon what exactly is type of team work required in the case of a particular team/work group in a particular organization context. This would also help us to develop and communicate a good 'operational definition' of 'what makes a good team player' in that context. Of course, an 'operational definition/working definition' is not very glamorous and it does not fully capture the mysteries of the broad concept of team work. But it can help to avoid a lot of avoidable unhappiness!