Committees aren't teams. Teams win and lose together. Committees can function well or badly, but most committees in organizational life are actually competing to some extent, and co-operating to some extent. Rarely do they win and lose together, regardless of how many off-site team building sessions you engage in. [and we've all been there, right?]
Teamwork is one of those words that has assumed almost sacred proportions, as an end, not a means to an end. If someone disagrees, you can quickly cut them off at the knees by accusing them of lacking teamwork. Forcing consensus where none exists is not teamwork, but it gets trotted out that way often enough.
Alan Weiss brought this nicely into focus for me in this article: A Team Isn't Necessarily a Good Thing.
True teams, he says, have these characteristics:
- Self-directed in terms of setting goals and allocating reward within the team
- Rewarded collectively as a team
- Sharing of resources and information without reservation or condition, including budget
- Selects its own leadership and governance, including meeting style, format, frequency, etc.
- Can “sunset” itself and, in most cases, should do so
He suggests asking these questions before undertaking efforts to improve teamwork:
- Is the organization’s best interests and strategic direction best served by teams or committees in the area of concern?
- If teams are required, is the client prepared to correctly empower them, treat them, and communicate with them?
- If teams are required, what is the correct duration and competition, especially in light of the criteria to be met?
- If committees are the better alternative, does the client understand the differences and the appropriate dynamics?
Some nice clear thinking. Let's not force all committees to be teams -- they're not teams. They need to work well together and be effective.