The whole is more than the sum of its parts | Blog | Solwit

The whole is more than the sum of its parts

Written by Natalia Piechota (Engineering Team Leader, Solwit SA)

Teamwork: the fuel that allows common people attain uncommon results. – Andrew Carnegie

It might seem that gathering an efficient project team is as simple as collecting several extraordinary specialists and that qualifications, experience, and knowledge fitting the profile of the given project are enough to get the group going and start excelling in its tasks.

teamwork

And yet it is not so – specialist knowledge is not enough. Regardless of its perfect technical preparation, a group of individuals not used to working in a highly co-operative team and focusing on common goals will inadvertently face the challenge of teambuilding.

 

As a result, the hiring company will have to consume substantial amounts of time and resources to additionally support the project. At the same time the company will learn to avoid similar situations in the future, and will probably look for other solutions, possibly easier and less absorbing ones.

Before I get to why it is better to delegate tasks to already functioning and tested teams, I would like to mention a brilliant finding by Bruce W. Tuckmana and Mary Ann C. Jensen.

 

According to the general model developed by the researchers, every group drafted to perform a task needs to work through four stages:

  1. Forming – team members act carefully and with little certainty. To a large extent they interact randomly and focus on avoiding potential conflicts… At this stage it is clear their main concern is not the project, but the team itself.
    At some point a leader emerges in one way or another, and he is the one that receives messages, but at this point it is rather general perception.
    Some time needs to pass before they start thinking WE instead of I, and consider the project as THEIRS. At that point, they will enter the second stage.
  2. Storming – team members start building their positions in the group. Time comes for heated discussions and conflicts and no, they do not regard the project, they serve only the purpose of setting the group hierarchy which is natural and should not be frowned upon.
  3. Norming – after some time the conflicts fade away and make room for substantive discussions… Calm before the storm… Brainstorm that is, which means that the team is finally starting to function properly and becomes constructive.
  4. Performing – after the storm comes a calm… Again… But this time it is here to stay. Now, in the final stage, the right environment for effective work has been prepared, and the “cosmic energy” can work its way resulting in ingenious ideas coming to life.

 

It is a fact of life that in most hardened company systems work is assigned to newly created groups of great specialists with lots of professional experience, and no inclination towards teamwork. Typically, they have never worked together before, they need to test the water, they compromise too much and let bad decisions slip for the sake of not inciting conflicts. They go through all the stages wasting time and resources before being able to fully commit to the project.

 

It goes without saying that an already formed team is able to provide much better service and bring results faster. This is where WE come in! A group based on software developers, testers, and an infrastructure specialist, the so-called infra-man. We proceed to make the complete product internally, within our well-oiled cell – we develop it, we constantly test it, we implement it, but also take care of the lab hardware it requires.

 

The customer assists us in the planning process and then sits back and waits for the tool to come to life. Right from the beginning the team self-organizes and becomes the helping-hand for the client, instead of being a burden. Team members reach their full potential straight away and can be seen as one body. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, therefore, can maintain maximum efficiency by properly distributing tasks and complementing their skillsets.

 

What needs to be stressed is that the team is bound by more than just a professional contract. Its members develop common interests, share hobbies, spend time on casual discussions – they feel comfortable being parts of the group. Until their next project starts, they will have gone to the cinema together, played table-top or video games, grown some potted tomatoes at the workplace, get used to exercising during breaks, or even meet after work in the office yard for a small barbecue feast.

 

That’s what we call integration. It might sound silly and childish, but every extracurricular activity a team performs together develops and strengthens its members trust. Consequently, they work more efficiently, they do not waste time keeping appearances, they do not hesitate to ask for help, nor do they refrain from helping others – they know all goals are common for their “project family.”

 

And what about the client? The client sees that it is not necessary to constantly micro-manage the team, to overlook its every action, to mediate between its members, nor spend additional resources to assure its operation. Instead, the client company can focus on the more substantial tasks, having full confidence in the team’s efficiency and not worrying about deadlines. This is the kind of co-operation that bodes well for the future.

 

Find out more about scalable resources on demand!