How often do you hear of complaints about teamwork or living in corporate silos? Like, every day? It’s very common in many corporations to hear units, sections, or teams of employees wondering just what those guys and gals down the hall or up three floors, or across town or even the country do all day. What I hear them saying is that whatever “those folks are doing it sure isn’t helping us!” Left alone, different teams and units, sections and departments can easily get cloistered into silos of excellence. Doing a great job within their group but failing to create the communication, connectivity, cooperation, and coordination so essential to a thriving networked organization.
What to do, what to do. My modest contribution to a more holistic corporate environment is the Team Traction Wheel (see drawing). The Team Traction Wheel is a straight-forward exercise that can reveal a great deal about the level of collaboration, coordination, and communication among different workplace teams and units. The wheel turns on the energy and power of four deceptively straight-forward questions.
- What does your team need from another team or teams? Think about actions or services that directly help you achieve your key purpose.
- What do you think the other team needs from you to achieve their key purpose?
- What do you think the other team believes they are actually getting from your team to help them achieve their purpose?
- What is your team actually getting from the other team to help you get the job done and achieve your key purpose?
I’ve seen some very revealing and useful comparisons when each team independently fills out the Team Traction Wheel and then compares results. Sometimes the four quadrants of the wheel mesh well and there is excellent traction. Often the wheel is lob-sided with one team thinking they’re doing a great job helping another team when in fact that’s not what the other group needs at all. Sometimes the wheel is just plain flat.
There are several reasons for a misaligned wheel and more spin than traction. We sometimes think that what we need is exactly what others need, especially when we’re in the same profession, company, or organization. Even sometimes when we’re in a personal relationship. Such false assumptions are a little self-serving and easily lead to conflicts and misunderstanding.
There are also examples when one team, unit, department, etc. knows very little or nothing about another group who can help or is in need of help. Again it is an example of splendid isolation and living inside a stovepipe. As with credible communication, there is a lot more gained from less spin and more traction.