Have you ever wondered where the ‘teams’ concept came from as it relates to the business world? It’s not really that old of a concept. I recall that when I started in the professional world some twenty years ago, the ideology of a team based structure was not part of the corporate conversations. We had a sales “Force”. and we had “PERSONnel” – emphasis on the person part, employees weren’t just another corporate resource back then. We had Engineering. We had manufacturing. We didn’t have the “logistics teams” or the “Sales Team” or the “Hololens Team”, although that may not be the best team to associated with. But at some point, the idea that groups within organizations became ‘Teams’.
I think the idea of Teams entered into the parlance of managers and corporate types because they were trying to drive productivity. I have no doubt that the first organizations to truly adopt the team propaganda were doing it to get their employees to work longer hours and to eliminate the infighting that occurs when people are pushed beyond what is reasonable. “hey, don’t get mad at sally for not getting that change order to you on time she’s backed up with two months of work, you should have done it yourself, you know because we are all a team” I call it propaganda because when I started getting exposed to the idea of teams everywhere, it was more about working harder and not complaining, and less about organizational structure. That has since changed.
So what started as a motivational tactic and corporate fad gained traction. Why did it gain traction? Well the emergence of the flat organizational model. You know, the thing that gave rise to Professional Individual Contributors, because there are no middle managers left. Ultimately there grew to be a bit of a science about the proper structure of corporate teams. Now the team concept has exploded. It’s everywhere. It’s also extending beyond internal employees to partnerships and even the customer relationships.
I’m not really for or against corporate teams. There is arguments to be made for the benefits and negatives of them. I think the point of teams, of thinking about teams, is that it’s now so entrenched that we have stopped really considering their existence. Maybe we should think about them a little bit more or rethink them as the case may be. I’m sure if we did this, that for some organizations it’ll really be the first time they have put any thought into it. The big questions would be: Are we really in a ‘team’ structure? Is the organization so committed to the team concept that they actually put thought into it? Or is senior management just using the term de jour, or as the old phrase goes, putting lipstick on a pig?
If it is the latter, then does make us a professional team of pigs?