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Atlantic Racing Scene

The Team as a Well-Oiled Racing Machine

Racing and race cars are great metaphors for team building excellence.

With racing season upon us, it’s interesting to reflect on how many corporations use simulated racing as a bona fide team building exercise. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other: sitting behind the wheel of a high performance vehicle and feeling the pulse of a speeding ride in a tightly controlled environment while developing new skills. It makes sense. In some respects, racing is the perfect metaphor for competition in the business world. Both require a high degree of confidence as twists and turns are negotiated on a dime. The driver develops a relationship and trust with his vehicle, just as he develops an interdependency with the rest of his team, who in turn, trust him to get the job done.

Today’s management trends place much more emphasis on teams as cross-pollinating, multitasking units with collective input as decision makers and problem solvers. In fact, today’s team theory supposes that the more ownership a group has over its work, the more pride and responsibility will be displayed in the final product. All team members contribute skills, attributes, values and vision to a team, but when people come together to collaborate, there are three issues at stake: task, process and outcomes. Task and problem solving are often the only things considered, but how the group acts as a cohesive unit can be just as important. So is what the group finally delivers to its customer and how that outcome can be measured. There are four stages in a team’s life cycle: forming, storming, norming and performing. 

During the forming stage, the group is busy trying to find its structure and getting to know each other and the task at hand. Storming is characterized by a focus on personal relationships, group identity and positions within the group. Conflict about personal responsibilities and roles is frequent. The norming stage happens when roles are finally established, members feel a sense of belonging to the team and start to communicate and share feedback. Individuals are more likely to accept tasks at this stage. Performing occurs when the team achieves interdependence, begin working well as a group and focus on both the task, as well as the process of achieving collective goals. At this stage, the team becomes a “well-oiled machine.”

At the performing stage, good, cohesive teams are concerned with the ongoing development of three things: the project, other team members and the larger corporation they are working for. If the team members feel well-connected to their organization, they think of their performance in relation to corporate priorities, customer feedback and quality assessment. Team leaders play vital roles within the group and to an individual’s contribution to the project. Once concerned with “top down” direction, today’s manager is more concerned with promoting inclusion, confidence and competencies. The more team members contribute, the more the sense of ownership is felt. 

Team members also require steady and accurate communication, input, support and encouragement during the decision making process. When team members feel valued, involved and respected, they feel empowered and increase both commitment and productivity. It’s also important for team leaders to understand how groups fit into a company’s business strategy. Leaders should be concerned about performance, management philosophies, accountability and organizational design, and realize there are many forms of collaboration. Managers are, in fact, partners with teams who are all working toward a common goal.  One model of team work should also not be applied across the board. Cross-training groups may come together for mere hours or several weeks. Self-directed teams have an established number working on a project for a year or more. Committees and focus groups may involve both core and supporting members for various and infrequent time frames. 

It’s crucial teams are clear on the purpose and mission of the group; that they operate in a collaborative structure to support the team’s purpose. Chains of command, narrow job descriptions and hierarchies are gradually becoming things of the past. Today’s teams are knowledgeable workers composed of diverse individuals who are concerned with sustainability, competence and ownership within the project, team and organization. As such, they are becoming more organic. When one part of the team is affected, all feel the loss. A healthy team however, functions like a well-oiled race car, and performs just as well. 



Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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