Jan's blog

Change, change, change....

This is part of the chorus line of more than one popular song! “Change, change, change…"

Indeed, change is universal: it spans across time; it is inescapable and ubiquitous; it affects all people, animals, plants, even the universe, and each of us; we can love it, or hate it; and if we do not adapt to it, we as individuals and organisations will surely die!

We all know that there are people who thrive on change and people for whom change is extremely difficult.

In this week's fact sheet, we will look at an introduction to change and resilience to change in individuals and organisations. We will also have a brief look at three major organisational change processes: Business Process Re-engineering, Total Quality Management, and learning organisations, and the role each of these have has in organisational development.

Please download the document and join the discussion.

Teamwork, Learning and Empowerment

When discussing teamwork, it is important to mention the concepts of empowerment and shared learning. Empowered members are essential for successful teamwork. The term empowerment is frequently used, but is also often misused.  The same applies to the concept of delegation.

You cannot delegate a task to a person that is not empowered or, at best, in the process of becoming empowered.

Before delegating any task, you must ensure that the person understands the extent of the delegation. This means that the person has the decision-making power and authority to fulfil the duties that come from the delegation.  Secondly, does the person have sufficient knowledge and skills required to fulfil the duties and responsibilities?

Delegation does not mean the creation of clones, it means giving a person the freedom to do the task in the best way they see fit. It does not mean that the person must do the task exactly as the leader would.  Through delegation, the individual has opportunities to explore, learn and grow.  The other side of the delegation coin, is that the person who is delegated to, by accepting the task also accepts the responsibility for and the consequences of their action.

This is what it means for an individual to be empowered.

Working with teams is similar to working with individuals. For successful teams the leader delegates tasks. The team accepts accountability, responsibility and, hopefully, learns. For a team to grow, team members must share their knowledge, experience and learning without reservation.

This is the basis of an empowered team.

Is teamwork all up to the leader?

In a recent workshop, a participant said that our article on teams [see blog below] created the impression that teamwork is purely the responsibility of the leader; that teamwork and creating teams is a one-way process.

In typical South African style, the answer I gave was yes and no.

Ultimately, the start and eventual effectiveness of a team depends on its environment. The environment must allow, foster, and be conducive to, teamwork. The creation of this environment is primarily in the hands of the leader. They need to set the tone and create an environment in which team members can become motivated and want to work together.

I specifically chose the words “where team members can become motivated” as no person can motivate another.  Motivation comes from within, from the development and setting of personal goals.  The person “motivating someone” can only create an environment where someone can become motivated, or perhaps not!

This brings us to the role of the team member. It is the responsibility of the team member to accept the opportunity – to become motivated. Teamwork requires that members let go of their own egos and perhaps their skewed opinion of their own importance.  It requires the acceptance of others as equally important in the achievement of the goal. Finally, yet importantly, teamwork requires accepting accountability for not just themselves, but also the performance and functioning of the team as a whole.

Thoughts on Team Development

Teamwork is the process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal… Teamwork means that people will try to cooperate, using individual skills and providing constructive feedback despite any [possible] personal conflict between individuals.

Numerous books about teams and team functioning are published annually. Organisations spend millions in attempts to implement systems and processes for improved teamwork, or to develop team-based organisations. Organisations strive to understand and enhance employee engagement, involvement, loyalty or commitment to organisational goals 

At the same time, organisations, even some with team-based structures, maintain recognition systems that focus mainly on the individual. This is similar to having a national sports team such as a rugby or soccer team and only recognising the players that scored!

Considering the definition of teamwork given above, it is clear that, at its core, teamwork is a philosophy where all team members see themselves as interdependent. In a team-based mind-set, members of the team recognise that they can only achieve something as the result of work done by others. For a team to be successful, all members of the team must acknowledge each other as meaningful contributors to, or distractors from, the end-result. 

Teamwork is fundamentally a collectivist rather than an indivualistic perspective.  Ultimately this also means that the whole team shares in the success of the team and not just one member. If team members do not feel that they are sharing in the successes, they can become disheartened, uninvolved and less committed to team goals. This one example makes it clear that implementing successful teams is not an easy or simple process.

Merely working together or working towards the same objective does not necessarily mean that you are a team!

It requires total involvement of the whole organisation, full understanding of the implications by all, and a consideration of all relevant policies and processes to successfully implement teams.  In addition, it requires a high level of commitment and hard work by team members and leadership.

We often hear that teams go through specific development phases - if you would like to read more, download the article here.