There’s an old world proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Fast is fun – for a time. You can cover a bunch of territory on your own, but what happens if you break down? If your objective is big and will take you far from your comfort zone, you simply can’t get it done without a team to support you.
Teams present great opportunity because they hold within their ranks a number of ideas and a variety of skill sets. They also have a special production capability: they have the size, the scale, and the scope to tackle a large volume of work, and they benefit from a division of labor. So we use teams to conquer big projects and challenges within the organization. Team success requires a strong performance culture. You want a team that is committed to accomplishing goals and meeting milestones. This is a team that other talented individuals will want to join. We all know of teams that don’t get much done but have fun and go to happy hour together every Friday, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. With successful teams, fun follows form: a team that achieves success is an engaged and happy team.
Certainly our Western culture, with its bias toward individualism and going fast, can undermine the idea of teamwork and a team culture of performance, but it doesn’t have to. The team should find a way to embrace individual talents. For example, if you have an orchestra, you want the most accomplished musicians. If you interview someone for a technology team, you won’t say, “This person’s brilliant in a particular technology, but we can’t use her because she’s not going to fit well on the team.” You’ll find a way to make her brilliance work for the team.
As a team begins to work together, discipline becomes critical to getting the best from every individual. We see this in sports teams all the time; the members are all talented athletes in their own right, but they have the discipline to work together to run plays well. The same goes for teams in the workplace. Discipline creates the environment for team performance—an environment in which everyone on the team accepts that a project must start and end on time, stay under budget, and satisfy the stakeholder base.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together … and stay disciplined!”