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How many "I"s are in your team?

The more I think about it the more I dislike the old saw “There is no I in team”. This statement is actually written from the management point of view and is rather self serving. What if we consider all the parties and their interests?
I contend that there are as many “I”s in your team as there are members and this view of teams is actually more helpful to team dynamics and productivity than trying to pretend that this is all about the greater good.

There are a number of clear personal costs to being a team member:
  • communications
  • putting oneself second at times
  • extra work so that others can fulfil tasks

These costs really only make economic sense if being part of the team brings more benefit than the costs. Authoritarian organisations might argue that your pay packet is sufficient to justify this. More enlightened organisations would set about making sure that the personal costs are minimised, the productivity gain is maximised and the sense of accomplishment of both the individual and the group is increased.

The big direct individual cost is communication: It is both sent and received. For teams to be effective an individual has to share information to others. This information has to be externalised and disseminated so that other team members can access it. The information can take the form of documentation, conversations or other electronic means. The other half of this cost is the reception of the information. If the information is presented poorly, incomplete, confusing or hard to access then the cost is increased.

Paying attention to communication goes a long way to making teams less costly and hence more valuable to both the individual and the group. Better communication also tends to make interactions between workers more smooth and friendly which also supports the feeling of accomplishment.

Carefully considering the individual as part of the team gives us the opportunity to optimise value for all the parties: the individual, the team and management.