Let’s face it, “teamwork” does not work in today’s workplace, despite all the hype surrounding the term. Why? Because today’s work is not “work” in traditional sense. It’s not physical work; it’s intellectual, emotional work.
Why then do we keep buying into the false promises of teamwork? Perhaps because much of popular press on teamwork comes from the world of sports. And those touting “teamwork” are our favorite retired sports celebrities, who now have lucrative careers in business management. It’s hard to not get enamored by them.
There’s another problem, when we try to treat today’s work teams like sports teams, we literally “box-in” their true productivity potential.
When work is physical, it can be divided up in nice little chunks. When it’s not, it can’t be done. In the end, we lose productivity and profits. Worse, people who are boxed-in don’t enjoy their work. They feel trapped. They find other “creative channels” to express their frustrations: backbiting, complaining, politicking, backstabbing, sabotaging and on and on it goes.
Of course, a few decades ago, teamwork was a concept that worked. In the 1930’s, in the industrial age, our work was physical. Much of it happened on the assembly line. There were clear boundaries as to where one’s work started and where it ended.
That’s why the management theories of those days were based on drawing boxes around people. And it worked. All we had to do was divide up our work in little compartments and assign each chunk to a human being.
This is also the time when we were in love with Machines. We saw them as solutions to all our problems. Machines were predictable. They did not complain. And they did not ask for a pay raise.
That’s why, we built our businesses like we built machines. We categorized “functions” of a business into machine parts. Nice little parts that worked with other parts. That’s why we drew boxes around people. And that’s how we “boxed people in” to their “positions.”
Very little has changed since then. The nature of our work has dramatically changed around us, but our management practices have not. We still try to categorize our work into little machine parts. We still try to run our business like a machine, with people as individual parts.
The result is locked up productivity of people that, by many measures, range from 67% to 95%.
But if we get our people out of their boxes, wouldn’t we create chaos and disorder? How do we harness the true productivity of our people without losing control of the organization? That’s what we will address in the next article.
Until then, this Bhavesh Naik, wishing you a Happy Success.