As I always say, “We learn the most from experience.” So, I took a leap of faith. While I was earning my MBA, I wrote several blogs regarding the practices of the Walt Disney Company. Interested in their business practicess, I went to work for the company. Organizational health issues are present, in one form or another, in all companies. I took a leap of faith to learn about teamwork and decision analytics in a Fortune 100 company.
Being a consultant, I took on a temp role supporting decision analytics as a financial analyst. I worked at the Magic Kingdom on Main Street. You are probably thinking “lucky!” As an organizational health consultant, I honestly learned more about teamwork and politics than I did theme parks and pixie dust. I came into the organization expecting to experience a role model company in organizational health. What I encountered was a team that desperately could have used my expertise (still wishing I could help them) had they been open to hearing it. Here is what I found.
The team I was fortunate to be a part of was, actually, not a team at all. It was a group of like-minded individuals who were insistent on attracting and retaining other like-minded individuals. I was instantly shunned from the start as an “outsider.” This group of intellectuals were all of the same gender and from the same university. To truly be accepted as part of the whole, you had to come from a specific pedigree and be of a specific sex.
(As a disclaimer) Not all of Disney is like this; I met people from all walks of life in my six months with company. It is a diverse company. But I specialize on teams. In this case, I had six months to analyze the dynamics and performance of my particular team.
While I found these individuals very talented, team decision making was not present. Decisions were based off of who was the highest ranking member of the team. The team was comprised mostly of “yes men” when it came to leadership. This is also a common characteristic of highly beaurocratic organizations. I often encountered the attitude, “If that’s what the boss wants, than do it. Don’t question authority.”
Therefore, the quality of decision making (in my opinion) suffered. On many occasions the team was not on the same page. It was more like taking orders and fulfilling requests. This impacted my personal level of motivation and performance. I am not greatest person at taking orders to begin with, but I felt the team did not attempt to tap the limitless potential of group members. Group members were judged purely on technical skills, rather than the diverse knowledge and skill sets they brought to the team.
I will be blogging more on my experience. The interesting thing about being a consultant is that you have the opportunity to be objective. These individuals may never recognize the implications of this type of teamwork without having an outside opinion to suggest there is a better method of working together.
As I have written, you cannot have a team without trust, the most basic building block of teamwork. We certainly lacked trust.
Do you work on a group or team? What made you give this definition?
If your meetings look like this, you have a problem. Better yet, your entire team has a problem. Time is money, and most executives and senior leaders spend their days in back-to-back meetings. Many consulting firms have surveyed senior leaders asking them to think back to their meetings from the last week and determine the number of meetings that achieved a goal that could not be accomplished with a teleconference or phone call with only one individual. The feedback may surprise you. A majority of meetings were reported back as, essentially, a waste of time.
So why do these meetings get scheduled in the first place? Because many organizations now have a strong reliance on teamwork to remain competitive and adapt quickly. However, many organizations fall into the trap, “we have an issue, schedule a meeting.” Meetings become the go-to resource for problem solving in organizations.
However, not all issues are a team effort. In fact, many issues are not a team effort. Have you ever attended a meeting with a checklist where the boss stood at the front of the room and asked one person a question that had no relevance to anyone else? That issue or topic is suitable for a phone call or e-mail, not a meeting where others are present. Time is a precious resource. In some facets, more precious than money. Solve the meeting time-waster by first asking yourself these simple questions:
1. Can this issue be solved/corrected in a discussion with just one individual or on your own?
2. What is the overriding purpose of this meeting?
3. Does that purpose call for a meeting?
4. Is this meeting in-line with current strategic priorities? If not, focus on your company’s top priorities. That is where the time resource is most beneficially spent.
Start thinking of time as money. You wouldn’t go and just throw company dollars down the gutter outside your office. But, if you are having too many pointless meetings, then that is exactly what you are doing. You are throwing away precious resources that could be spent bettering your organization and producing a greater return-on-investment.
If your company does not already, start thinking strategically about meetings.
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” ~ Ronald Reagan