Enable Others to Achieve Results with Joy

Teamwork — Define the Model Carefully

When teamwork is done right, it can be one of the most rewarding and effective ways to accomplish almost any task that requires the effort of more than one person.

That’s why suggesting to someone that their work responsibilities are being organized as part of a team can mean something very special to them.

At the same time, teamwork is truth in advertising. It is team WORK.

Teamwork Doesn’t Mean Easier

“Doing teamwork” doesn’t necessarily lessen your load — and most certainly not at the front end of the process. Coordinating a team approach to work can sometimes feel less efficient than a command and control approach. (JUST DO THIS!) But efficiency and effectiveness are not the same thing.

Likewise, teamwork is not one thing either. Teamwork means different things to different people. There’s no common, much less a universal, definition of teamwork. And that’s why teams from boardrooms to operating rooms get into so much trouble when they proclaim they’re doing teamwork, no matter how well intending.

For many reasons, teamwork in organizations is not like teamwork in sports. (No finite rulebook; no timed play; no single opponent; no referees; no cheerleaders; and on and on.) Even if you were to liken organizational teamwork to sports teamwork, which sport would you have in mind?

Define the Teamwork Model

Imagine a group trying to “do teamwork” when some of the participants are thinking the model is like the golf team — everyone doing their own thing; some are imagining American football — very structured with prescribed roles and limited rights for each player; and some are attempting to do basketball where everyone has their respective positions but also spontaneously playing to each other’s strengths with trust and fluidity.

Those are very different models of teamwork. Do you sense a clash coming?

Expect fouls, fumbles, and worse.

If you aren’t fond of sports metaphors for teamwork, consider this one


Metaphors for Teamwork drawn from Music

illustrating the concept using metaphors from the world of music.

If you’re talking teamwork in your organization — or even thinking about it –– better define terms, processes and metrics.

Get some outside assistance.

Like a coach.

Or your team could well find itself playing a losing game.

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