Team vs. Team

(Co-authored with Dr. Mitch Kusy)
Published in Projects@Work

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Here are nine signs that unproductive or dysfunctional behavior between teams is likely. If you see some of them, act quickly to reduce their intensity or frequency and begin collaboration building.

It’s an age-old dilemma in business: Two cohesive teams working in different departments or on different aspects of the same initiative fail to cooperate. When collaboration fails, it means that business objectives are not being met and management needs to take decisive action to align the two work units. Here are nine signs of unproductive and dysfunctional behavior patterns that signal it’s time to engage in proactive collaboration building:

  1. Minimal communication occurs between teams, which results in hoarding of information.
  2. Members of one team do not trust the leader or members of the other team.
  3. Team members make excessive negative assumptions about the intent behind the behavior of the other team’s members.
  4. The teams define themselves in polarized terms, emphasizing differences and strengthening the tribal, or cliquey, culture of each team.
  5. Interpersonal conflict between the two teams’ members remains unresolved and/or exaggerated.
  6. When engaged in a collaborative endeavor, team members view and execute their roles rigidly, with little willingness to be flexible.
  7. The teams exhibit low levels of productivity in dual projects; individuals may be performing but not nearly as effectively as if they were collaborating, cooperating and communicating at a consistently high level.
  8. Expected outcomes for teamwork between the two work units are ill defined or ignored.
  9. Mechanisms for accountability on shared assignments are few.

If these signs are present, a team leader must act quickly to reduce the intensity or frequency of these unproductive patterns.

Louellen Essex, PhD, and Mitchell Kusy, PhD, are co-authors of Manager’s Desktop Consultant: Just-in-Time Solutions to the Top People Problems That Keep You Up at Night (Davies-Black, 2007).

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