We support many companies and teams of all shapes and sizes. We’ve worked with some that employ this all in, all at once strategy when they have a corporate initiative. Picture executives leaving a corporate strategy session and each individually mobilizing their team to attack a problem or start a project to achieve a goal without a common plan. It’s similar to 5 games of capture the flag going on at once – there is one flag that everyone can see and agree on. But 5 different teams working in 5 different directions and none of them working together.
Some may say that if you send 5 teams out to solve the problem the chances that one of them is successful is high. Like if you throw 5 darts at a dart board all at the same time one of them may stick. Well, maybe, but it causes a lot of confusion and panic in the meantime.
Not only is this an inefficient use of resources (having multiple people doing the same thing) but it also breeds mistrust, confusion over roles, abdication of responsibilities and a general sense of helplessness. These feelings are kryptonie for a positive work culture. Collaboration trumps all. We strongly believe that communication between teams and working in partnership with each other results in more success than individual teams clambering over each other.
Here’s an example. Team Amy, reporting to Bill, has been tasked with fixing a problem with a big customer. Team Marsha, reporting to Robert, has also been tasked with fixing the same problem. Amy and Marsha don’t work together every day. Amy takes one direction to fix the problem and Marsha takes another. Then one day, Marsha finds out Amy is doing parallel work.
What happens to Amy and Marsha in this scenario?
Marsha is confused over why Robert asked her to fix this problem if Amy was doing it too. Was all Marsha’s work a waste of time?
Amy is confused over why Marsha is working on the same thing. Does Bill not trust Amy to achieve the goal?
What if the two solutions to the problem compete? How would both be implemented?
What does Amy know that Marsha doesn’t? What does Marsha know that Amy doesn’t?
What about the supporting departments? How can they support both Amy and Marsha when the solutions are different?
Why are we even doing this?
This situation usually results in a big meeting where everyone (begrudgingly) sits down and learns all about what the opposite team has been working on. Here, the redundancies emerge, and teams learn just how much time has been wasted. They also see the good in what the other team has developed and think, if we had just worked together from the beginning we’d have achieved the goal already and done so with the collective insight and perspective of a more diverse team.
Ultimately, teams either band together regardless of what Bill and Robert originally wanted or one team gives up on the project and shifts full responsibility to the other.
While the result in both cases is success, the path to get there is foolish.