Decoding Careers – 3: when math defines collaboration

In the previous blog, I left you with a teaser by asking how much does 1+1 do? Well more later.

There something in humans that is really strange: two teams that work for the same firm and have the same goals but separated by, for example, a wall or office or department, hate each other. Why is that? Why those people that are grouped together feels immediately one against each other? I started to understand this behavior when I became 40 and I made my family happy to agree to own a dog. I did not know anything about them, so I started to read the literature and one thing came immediately clear to my mind: the concept of “wolfpacks” and the “alpha” dogs: wolfpacks are like human teams with the manager being the alpha dog. It’s in our nature to operate in groups. Nothing we can do about it. But then the challenge is, how do we make “wolfpacks” working together?

Later in my career, I met at a conference event an Indian guru that helped me to understand how to explain to teams why it is important to work together and why nobody wins if you won’t collaborate. He started to write down on a whiteboard:

1 + 1 = 3

People were looking and thinking, where is he going? The ones refer to two people or two teams that reasonably work together, have common goals and the output, being a product, a service, etc. is more than expected. Good. Then he wrote down:

1 + 1 = 11

Now you have two people or two teams that really work together very well, they trust each other they will eventually come through with their goals (“eventually consistent organizations”) and the output represents the multiples of what it was expected. The products or services that needed to be build show it all: everything works together, there is attention to details, etc. Awesome! Then again he wrote down:

1 + 1 = -1

Now you have two people or two teams that are not working together, actually, they deliberately obstacle each other (see the previous blog on the two Italian towers). The output is not in the multiples, but it is negative. The product or service you wanted to deliver is bad and it shows: nothing works together, no attention to details, etc. Bad!

The sad part is that one side may think that they have done all good and it is the other side that failed. I always say to teams you win together or you lose together. Certainly, when the output is negative, there are no winners at all and the realization that a product or service may be discontinued will impact both sides!

The key roles are played by the alpha dogs, the managers. Collaboration starts from the top and it distributes down into the teams. If there is no harmony at that top, there is a big danger for a -1 output.

In the next blog, I will elaborate more in details on this key role.









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