To start my “defining of terms”, I thought I’d grab the easy pickings and quickly flesh out a term we all use several times a day: team.
It turns out that defining team is extremely difficult, if you want to properly communicate that meaning to a large group of people who have differing ideas about work.
After days of struggle, and a back and forth with myself on the different elements, I have determined that the core problem is with two aspects of teams that we often overlook: how we use words to talk about decisions leading to action (work), and the size of the group we’re calling a “team”.
That words matter is probably obvious to you, but it wasn’t so clear to me when I started because I wasn’t trying to talk about work but simply define the term, “Team”. But in Requisite Agility, as RA co-founder Dr. Stephen Clement points out, It’s All About Work.
Requisite Agility isn’t about social movements, recreation, or spiritual expression. We’re dealing with teams at work, and how to provide a coherent context for groups doing stuff (for lack of a clearer definition at this point). How you talk about work will therefore limit how you define a team.
And, as the recent Requisite Agility unsymposium demonstrated, get two people who use words differently to talk about decisions for action and you will get an argument even when they pretty much agree on the outcome.
Size should be clear, too. It’s well known in sociological research that group size affects all manner of measures. The simplest reason is that as group size expands, the number of dyads (pairings) increases dramatically.
But other issues come into play, too. One is communication: those who have played telephone (aka “Chinese whispers”) have seen the mayhem that can ensue when large numbers of people, even from the same town, try to simply repeat a phrase successfully to each other. More people also means a greater likelihood that someone will use words differently when talking about decisions.
Next time, let’s deal with the problem of size when discussing what a team is.
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