Human beings appeared on earth 5 to 7 million years ago. One of the major factors which differentiated humans from other animals was their ability to cooperate. It is mainly cooperation and working together as a team that has brought humans from ape-like creatures to be able to create and manage civilizations.
When people cooperate with each other and work towards achieving a particular goal they are working together as a team. Cooperation is the essence of team building.
In order to understand the evolution of cooperation, read the book - Super Cooperators - Why we need each other to succeed
Historical evidence of working as a team
When you look at what an individual can do; there are various limitations like energy one has, life span, time for a particular task, etc. However, in the team context, there is no limitation of power or time. One classic example is the TATA group which has been running for more than a century.
Examples of what one can achieve as a team
- Manhattan Project - Building the first nuclear bomb
- Admiral Rickover and his team built a nuclear submarine in 3 years
- Lee Kuan Yew along with supporting citizens built a first world country that was earlier in rags
- NASA - Building complex projects related to space
- Japan industrialization
- Buddhist Sanghas
The above examples are highlighted to give an idea of the power of teams and what can be achieved with the right team.
What does it take to build teams?
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” - Henry Ford
Team building activity mainly involves two major things
- Finding people to work together
- Building and managing the environment for teams to sustain and succeed
One has to acknowledge that this process is going to be hard and is going to take time. So it has to be done patiently. A person must be dedicated to getting people and there must be a continuous flow of actions from that person. Some ways to contact people are as below
- Reaching out to people in college across India
- Contacting people who are interested (GitHub/GitLab)
- Personal network
- Posting in forums
Team Building Activity at Hexmos
We at Hexmos reached out to colleges across India to find students and build teams. Some statistics from our experience and insights gained during that process are mentioned below.
The activity involved calling colleges and offering them a course for which students can enroll. For every 20 calls to colleges, one person would respond positively. We had to get 3 to 4 such people (close to 100 calls). Students from 1 or 2 of these colleges would register and turn up for the session. For every 100 students you have taught, you can expect 1 or 2 of them to stay.
- Don’t waste time thinking just call
- In every conversation, push HOD to send forms to people so that students register and we get access to their email and mobile number
- Don’t take things personally some of them will outright refuse what you are proposing
- Talking to people in higher positions is better. The deal happens or breaks at a faster rate thus saving time
- Follow-up is not an option. For most cases, you need to keep reminding people of getting the task done until they do it or opt-out
- The behavior of the students/HOD is different when you introduce a small amount of money vs when it’s completely free
There are a variety of ways to manage and sustain teams, one of them which is explained here is a 4D-System which was used by NASA. More information about the 4D-System can be obtained from How NASA builds teams
In this system, a leader's attributes are divided into 4 core elements that are referred to as dimensions. These dimensions are called quadrants. Each quadrant identifies a style of thinking and the direction where the team is headed.
Every individual has an innate personality and by default falls into one of the four quadrants mentioned below. In certain situations, the innate personality trait does not help. Leaders have to assess the status of the team and maintain the right balance across dimensions. Details of the four dimensions are as below
The left side of the Y-axis addresses the emotional side and the right side addresses the logical side.
Cultivating - Green
This dimension suggests deep feelings and caring deeply about people. An example of this leadership type is M Gandhi
Visioning - Blue
This suggests about possible future. Leaders' actions include taking visioning the impossible and acknowledging difficult realties
Emotional - Yellow
This suggests emotional experience from the present. The deepest of which comes from the relationship with other people
Logical - Orange
This involves taking actions organizing and directing. Leaders’ actions are organizing, managing, planning, directing, and controlling
How can we use it in the Hexmos context?
These are my personal opinions on how to use the framework. The first thing I would recommend is identification. We need to reflect on the way we are running the team and identify our distribution of activity between the above four quadrants. One way to get a better idea would be to list down the actions you have taken for each of the quadrants. This will give you an idea about the proportion in which your activity is distributed.
For example, if we are too focused on “Visioning - Blue” and we completely ignore “Cultivating - Green” and “Emotional - Yellow” this can have negative results. We might end up doing a lot in the beginning and since there is less bonding between the members of the team there are chances that the team may disintegrate.
The goal is to maintain the proper health of the team. If there are any discrepancies in the team, we need to reflect and figure out the lack of actions in which quadrant caused it. After analysis, we can take subsequent steps in that direction to fix it
There is also an online assessment for the 4D framework which can be taken here. This will provide you with more data points to use the framework
Future reading on team building and sustaining
- Taiichi Ohno Workplace Management
- Never Ending challenge of Engineering: Admiral H.G Rickover in his own words
- Han Feizi: Basic Writing