Reason 1 – Ideas To Try


Some key questions to ask yourself and your team.

Basic, really important ones:

  1. What result(s) is this team supposed to accomplish?
  2. Why is this important?
  3. What measures are we using to determine if we have accomplished what we are supposed to be doing or moving things along?
  4. Should we ask the boss (or equivalent) for help in determining what we are supposed to be doing?

Interesting ones:

  1. Look at your (and your team’s) response to # 2 above.  Does this response mean much to you personally or would you have a different response to that question if you could answer it with no one listening?
  2. Is the way in which you and your team are going about accomplishing what it is supposed to be doing consistent with that result?
  3. Does your team have any measures that look at ‘how’ you are doing what is important or only ones that let you know if you’ve done it?
  4. How will you know if you are being honest in determining what is important for this team to be doing?

Key points of this reason to hate work teams:

  • No team can function effectively without knowing what it should be focusing on and having some goals established.
  • Finding some workable level of agreement among team members what the team is supposed to accomplish is the first task for any team.
  • Honesty is the key ingredient in finding this workable level of agreement.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. If you actually were on, or working with a team on this reason and tried out some of these questions, what was your experience?
  2. Would you have additional questions or key points to add?
  3. What have you found the most challenging thing in determining what a team is supposed to be doing?
  4. How have you addressed this challenge?

Reason 1


PavementThis is the number one reason why a team does not work!  Ask the members of any team from boardroom teams to bathroom teams, “What is this team supposed to be doing?” and observe the puzzled looks.  If your team cannot consistently answer this question it is doomed to failure.  And if you are a member of such a team you are doomed to experience the torture of participating in this failure.  Most teams THINK they know what they’re supposed to be doing.  However, a painful number who think they know, really don’t.

Try this at your next team meeting.  Give everyone two minutes at the start of the meeting to write down their answer to the question: What is this team supposed to be doing?  No talking allowed.  If you end up with more than two different responses your team is in trouble.  So either stop whatever you are doing and find one answer to the question or disband the team since it can’t possibly do anything of value until the question is answered.  Unless you can agree on what the team is supposed to be doing you are wasting everyone’s valuable time.

By the way, if you are part of an organization where some people tell others what to do (the official term is hierarchy) then 98% of the teams should be told what they are supposed to be doing by someone up the ladder.  This saves a lot of time, is consistent with how things work anyway and most teams are very happy to get the direction.  Don’t let anyone tell you this will decrease ‘engagement’ or some other such term; it won’t.  Teams want to be successful, and knowing what they are supposed to be doing is the first step in that success, regardless how that knowledge comes about.  So if your team doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be doing, try asking the boss.  If the boss doesn’t know, disband the team quickly because you’ve got bigger problems to deal with!

If you are one of those few teams that is expected to figure out what it’s supposed to be doing without direction from above, then do this task well.  The key ingredient to finding the answer is honesty, and there is a really good chance you will need some objective help in being honest.  You also need to test your behavior against what you say you should be doing.  By testing behavior you can discover if your team is just TALKING about doing something but really DOING something else.  Talk is cheap; activity tells the real story.

If you are puzzled about what testing behavior means or how to do it, don’t get all complicated here.  Start by looking at the measures your team uses to assess success.  If they are not measuring what you have said is important you have a problem.  It was your behavior that created those measures or your behavior that neglected to change them.

The next post will be suggestions about trying to deal with this reason to hate work teams.  Use it to jot down some of your thoughts about your team, note any questions that might need answering, any ideas that you think might help your team be more effective.  Bring these to your next meeting and continue to push for discussion on these topics.  Who knows, it might help your team take a big step forward.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. Have you ever been on a team like this? Describe the experience
  2. Have you ever worked with a team with this reason to hate it?  What did you do?
  3. It is often expressed that getting the boss to tell the team what it should be doing isn’t a good thing to do, other than at a high level.  Do you agree?  What assumptions might be driving this perspective?
  4. Have you found measurements often are at odds with what a team says is important?  Why do you think this is so?
  5. And of course, any other musings you may have!



20121022_113724We’ve all muttered foul words under our breath as we gnashed our teeth, shook our heads and shuffled along to another meeting with the ‘team from hell.’  We are all sadly familiar with at least one profoundly ineffective gathering of souls which generally does nothing but suck up great portions of our valuable time while causing vast amounts of stress and frustration.  Amazingly, a large number of work teams seem to be chugging along in just that manner.

This eBook and handbook is meant to bring those expletives out of the closet in order to describe how we REALLY feel about teams.  Then we can begin to do something to make them better.  Work teams in organizations are expected to produce results, results which contribute to the profitable outputs of that organization.  If they don’t, they are pretty well useless.

This eBook examines what it is that transforms teams into such awful monsters.  It uses plain language to reveal what’s really going on; a reality that can be concealed by fancy words and meaningless jargon.  It presents some simple indicators to help you assess whether or not your team is caught up in one of these hateful traps, and it offers some simple suggestions for improvement.

Work with this eBook and these posts.  Annotate, print and draw, share, make up new four letter words to describe your most hated team.  Make up new reasons to hate it.  After that, step back and have a good chuckle at what your team is really like.  Laughter is a great precursor to accepting what is, and after acceptance can come honest change.  And laughter is a much easier stepping off point than rage, tears or apathy.

So, let’s see what your team is really like….. *#@!!%…

Discussion and comment points for this post:

  1. What’s your number 1 reason to hate work teams?

10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams – A Little Background

20121022_105016I originally wrote 10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams way back in 1998, shortly after I had decided to become an independent consultant in the area of organizational development and opened the business Pathways and Crossroads Consulting Inc.  Back then eBooks, blogs and other forms of social media for publishing your thoughts and ideas were still mostly just thoughts and ideas so 10 Good Reasons was published as a booklet.  It had a giant 10 on the cover with a picture of me in the middle of that 10 and my kids still ‘strike the pose’ of me in the middle of the zero and refer to the booklet as Dad’s pamphlet!  Kids can be a tough audience!

I sold and used a fair number of these at the time, but like a lot of hard copy booklets, the format became problematic, even though the topic was still relevant.

It was that last point that prompted the resurfacing of 10 Good Reasons.  While there are lots of writings on teams, most of them make the topic far more complex than it needs to be in my opinion.  In addition, most of those writings espouse the wonderful nature of teams as if we should all yearn to be on one, or more!  Closer to reality is that teams are simply a fact of organizational life and we are just as likely to yearn to be off one as on one.

10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams takes a little different approach.  First, it’s pretty simple.  The 10 reasons are not deep dark issues, but they are problems that surface all the time with teams.  Second, the suggested actions to move these problems along are pretty simple too.  Most teams can do great work by keeping things simple and that is the focus.  Third, it’s light and hopefully a little humorous.  Sometimes humor is a very good way to surface problems that can be difficult to talk about.

One thing right up front is what I mean by a team for this work.  It’s a group of people that have 2 characteristics:

  1. They meet (face to face, virtually or by some other means).
  2. They have some common focus and output that they are responsible for.

And if you ask me to go into a more complex definition of what a team is; well then we have 11 reasons to hate work teams!

For this version of 10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams the text has been updated and expanded a little (but not much) and when it’s done I will no longer have my picture in the middle of a zero on the cover!

I hope you will engage with me, and the topic as this emerges; it will make this project better.  Well at least if we don’t run into any of the 10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams!  If we do however, we can use the suggested actions and see if this stuff actually helps!

I’ll be posting twice a week, usually on Tuesday and Friday mornings (Eastern time of Canada).

Let’s begin!

Hello All!

Coming soon!  I will be blogging 2 books over the next several months.  The first will be ’10 Good Reasons to Hate Work Teams’ and will be more of a simple booklet rather than a full book.  The second will be ‘OUCH!  The Misfit Between Theory and Experience in Organizations’ and this will be a more extensive piece looking at different ways of thinking about and understanding the organizations we work in that is more coherent with our actual experiences of being in them.