being able to quote my source, I’ve read that one of the prime spurs to Humans
learning to speak was survival itself. While I’ve never seen a Mammoth apart
from the cartoon one in Ice Age, I expect it’s probably a similar situation to
a very large grumpy elephant in a fur coat. Since this was a major food source
for Humans, the ability to turn one of these beasts into x number of steaks
without losing limbs or lives in the process was an essential survival function
– yet one individual acting alone hadn’t got a hope. It required a Team
if you were thinking that ‘teambuilding’ is a modern thing, now you know.
Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon Man did it first, without trainers like me to guide
them – either the Leader learned to do it effectively or one of the rocks or a
spear ‘went astray’ (early OSH incidents) and a new Leader was given the
chance. The Clan depended on success in the Hunt for life itself, performance
measurement was continuous, judgement was swift, and there were no golden
handshakes. With the advent of ‘verbal’ communication, came the ability to
act collectively, to have a Strategy, to operate as a Team. Along with this
then, must come some form of commitment on the part of each Team Member to
self-discipline, to suppress the urge to act as an individual, for the
individuals’ own goals to be subordinate to that of the Team. It simply
wasn’t acceptable, in the middle of herding a couple of tonnes of angry
‘burger-on-the-hoof’, for a critical team member to wander off in search of
some magic mushrooms for the after-feast festivities, worthy as that task might
be in the absence of DVD and wide-screen in-cave entertainment.
we come forward then to today, and consider the rise of technology and an
associated move to smaller teams achieving more, the ability to act as a
coherent Team is at least as critical if not more so. We simply don’t have the
spare bodies floating around on the payroll – every Team Member is critical.
Collins, in ‘Good to Great’, reports that the Hero Leader, the Celebrity
Leader, does not have the impact on sustained success that we’ve been
led to believe – the empirical research simply doesn’t support it. He states
from his groups research: “We expected that ‘good-to-great’ leaders would
begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first
got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right
people in the right seats – and then
they figured out where to drive it. The old adage “people are your most
important asset” turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important
asset. The right people are.”
with ‘right’ in terms of skill and knowledge, what’s the point of having
all that talent unless you can weld it together and apply it to a task as a
single entity, with an agreed strategy and an agreement and commitment to some
kind of shared ‘end result’. How does this compare with Military strategy?
now, back to NZ, 2004, workplace reality. Why has HR grown from being
sole-operator ‘personnel officers’ in the 60’s to fully discrete
departments staffed by academically-qualified professionals today? I think
because CEO’s know, deep in their bones, egos aside, that it is the Team that
brings them their result. Therefore to have the right people in the right seats
is paramount to the survival, and then the future sustainable growth, of the
Organisation. We look to Leaders to set the Vision, communicate it clearly and
unambiguously, and ‘sell it’ to the Team. We look to the Team to achieve it.
That’s why Teambuilding will always be a matter of study, research and
training. It’s a Mammoth task with no room for woolly ideas.
Steve Punter ANZIM,
Dip Bus (PMER), NCAET, FHRINZ, GNZATD
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2004 All rights reserved by the author.