Putting 5 people in one room and assigning them a shared project does not constitute teamwork.
True teamwork is when all members are working in harmony; but remember, a symphony plays best when it has a leader, someone who keeps time.
To succeed as a team, someone needs to assume the lead throwing out the concept that teamwork is democratic and that all members are equal and play equal roles.
Focus on leader
Take a Formula One team or a team participating in the Tour de France. A leader is chosen; someone who demonstrates the qualities, competencies and capacities to take a team over the finish line in first place. This person generally has innate leadership qualities and skills that gives their team the best chance of winning.
The team members are then chosen to compliment this individual. Their role is clearly defined so that every move, task and effort is made with one goal in mind; support, aid and assist the leader in their quest to win.
Let’s breakdown a Tour de France team contending for the overall prize – the GC (general classification) as it is called… other teams might compete for the polka-dotted jersey, which is awarded to the top climber.
GC contenders win the tour by creating time gaps during hilly stages, and the team and individual time trials. So the “domestiques” on these teams support their leaders by pacing them on long climb. Given this arduous task, a “domestique” rider may kill themselves to pace their leader one day, and completely fall back and take it easy the next day to recover. This hurts their overall time, making it impossible for this rider to win but that’s not their purpose in the tour, their sole purpose is to support their leader at any cost.
I am avid cyclist and worked in Formula One for 11 years. In both cases, I witnessed teamwork taken to the extreme, where everything and I mean everything was thought out to the very last detail. In cycling, drafting behind another rider allows you to expend 30% less effort, over a 100km ride, that’s significant.
In Formula One, look at how the garage is set-up at every race, no matter where this race is taking place. The toolboxes are laid out exactly in the same place / position so when a mechanic reaches for a ¼ inch ratchet, it’s there, without having to search or think about it. It’s about saving time and being efficient, which could be the difference of making the podium or not.
In relation to the Java U project
For the Java U project, teams were pre-selected, meaning, no one knew who they’d be working with.
Over the course of working on the project, it became clear which member would play which role.
Our team quickly gelled and found a balance permitting us to work efficiently brought on by the fact that the proposed strategy was immediately endorsed by the team, call it our finish line.
Once our mission / purpose were set, the team fell into place and off we went. But this strategy was mainly driven by one individual who drove it and sold it to the other members getting their buy-in – the leader.
Had there been 2 leaders, 2 strong willed individuals in our team with opposing views, it could have split the team down the middle or made defining our strategy difficult.
So for teamwork to actually work, as in Formula One or in the Tour, someone needs to lead and others need to accept and assume their specific roles. Teamwork works best when this concept is accepting by all, that’s democratic but the make-up of the team and the assigned work is not.
A great coffee quote, “a morning without coffee, is like sleep”.