Article (August-2018)


Marshalling the unique strengths of different players

Aman Attree

Designation : -   Group Head Corporate -HR

Organization : -  Hindustan Power Projects, New Delhi


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How do you define teamwork in contemporary terms?
AA One of the timeless aphorisms related to teamwork is that 'There is no I in teamwork'.  Collective pursuit of excellence is the very essence of teamwork. I define teamwork as a scenario where all the team members synergise efforts to accomplish a task in a faster, better and cost-effective manner as against individuals working in isolation and combining the outcome of their work to conclude a task.
In contemporary terms, teamwork is the efficiency that comes into the system by compounding the output of the entire team's efforts as compared to technology which multiplies the output of an individual's effort.
What do you think - is team building/team work an art or science? Have you in your organization ever thought over the chemistry and mathematics of team work (please share with an anecdote)?
AA Since the beginning of Human Resource theory, various leaders have answered this question in their own way. While the theory and principles underpinning teamwork can be called science, the practical implementation of the same is an art. It is not like physics or engineering but more like playing a game of chess or soccer where you have to marshal the unique strengths of different players. Earlier, we had to ramp up our strength by a factor of 20 in a span of two years. While individual team members were competent, they were riven by internal politics and narrow mindsets.
At Hindustan Power, we worked on developing team chemistry and bonding that made them notice their commonalities. As a result, they came together to achieve a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Adroit stewardship in calming their ruffled feathers, communication of a common theme to all team members and motivating them to achieve a common vision helped us in transforming the team dynamics. Also, the team members were under the same discipline and a common leader. We realigned the team so that people with different but compatible personalities were grouped to achieve the same target together. This sub-team worked in co-opetition with other sub-teams to achieve the overarching mission.
What does it really mean to be a team player, in times when virtual teams and robots are taking over the workplace where technology neutralizes the chemistry of teamwork?
AA I believe that while technology enhances individual output, in the times of virtual teams and robots, teamwork is now required more than ever to ensure that even the smallest of efforts don't get wasted.
Virtual teams and robots enable leaders and managers to allocate their time better and concentrate on building teams.
To answer the question pointedly, a team player is now able to perform the following tasks more efficiently while treating everyone equally :
  • Streamline the flow into the AI units,
  • Reduce the repetitive or extra work required to be done by colleagues, and
  • Help the other team members think more clearly on how to multiply their output.
Do you believe that apart from popular traits of effective team and team workers, something more is required in changing fast paced business environment. What should be that "something"?
AA The answer is in the question itself. Success is never final, and failure is never ending. Keep an open mind, and continue learning about the new insights in the business and function.  This is important for everyone in the organization, regardless of their level or age.
What are some of the myths behind effective teams and team workers?
AA Myth 1 : Once a good team, always a good team : While I do agree that if the leader gets the implementation of the science right and the team pulls its weight, it is a good thing. However, it is not true that the same team structure and policies are the gold standard. People change, circumstances change, business directions change. Hence, change is the only constant.
Myth 2 : A /B/C Team members : Categorisation is always bad. Remember how the Nazis came to power and the Holocaust? May be that is too extreme but then always remember that while HiPos (High Potential employees) need to be properly motivated and rewarded, the HR and team leaders should raise the bar for everyone to become an A-class team member. In fact, they should aspire to do away with this distinction.
What is the role of HR in accelerating chemistry for teamwork? 
AA 1. Allow people to make mistakes; Let them not fear the repercussions of inadvertent mistakes : Experimentation makes teams efficient and proactive by allowing them to make arrangements, in case of mistakes. Not punishing people for honest mistakes gives them the courage and humility to rectify errors and avoid their repetition. Such teams serve as checks and balances avoiding any work-related blunders in the organisation. These teams further strengthen this work culture.
2. Bolster leaders who make good teams by reinforcing their vision with consistency, wherever possible : If a good team leader says something but the HR policies don't support the same, s/he loses credibility and interest to make a difference. Eventually, it leads to disgruntlement and attrition.
3. Being honest, maintaining organisational integrity and treating employees with respect are the most important requisites for maintaining chemistry for teamwork.
4. Keep an integrative mindset : Meld the old with the new. Develop principles of good teamwork with new technologies like AI, cloud and Analytics. Do not fear the new. The Old is Gold. If it is true and essential, it will survive any kind of change and evolution.