Recently I related a story about a burger chain and the combined effort of 5 employees to make one 20 ounce cup of Joe. The number of people needed to fulfill the task grew as each team member added his/her expertise to the task at hand, and together the team found the direction to go. Eventually, with the help of a team approach, the task was completed. As we dig a bit deeper into the realm of Teamwork, there were 2 additional elements that I found important as I related the incident. Teamwork is not merely a “good idea” but essential in today’s fast paced, ever-changing world.
In their book, The Team Approach, Dr. Steven Stowell and Stephanie Mead give two key points on just how important teamwork is in our everyday lives – first, Teamwork is everyone’s responsibility, and second, Teamwork must have a direction- not only a solution.
Teamwork is everyone’s responsibility. Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” How can we consider ourselves a member of a team and yet, watch as one of our members’ struggles without help? We have to ask ourselves are we truly a team or simply observers? As I watched (as an observer) employee #1 struggle with the task at hand, he was at a dead end within seconds of starting. The more team members who got involved in the completion of the task, the narrower the margin of error became, the less time it took to complete the task, and the lower the level of negative emotions. It is said that “Two heads are better than one” well…what about 3, 4, or 5?
Teamwork must have a purpose. This implies that each member of the team must have a clear direction as well as a solution. A goal is a great starting point, but how do you reach your goal without some sense of direction? The team I observed had a very obvious purpose: to fulfill the order of a customer. However, the direction soon became unclear when employee #1 had trouble completing the goal. As each additional member became involved, teamwork approached evolved and the pathway to the goal grew shorter. More work done in less time.
I never thought I would see the day when it would take 5 people to make one 20 ounce cup of mocha coffee, but what a learning experience it was for me. It showed me how to be a more effective team member in my own realm of work, home and civic responsibilities. As we remember that Teamwork is everyone’s responsibility and do whatever it takes to achieve a purpose, it may take 10, 20, 50 people to complete what we see as one of the most common tasks. The end result however, is to be a part of the team, not merely an observer.