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The Road to Hell (Good Intentions)

One of my mother’s favorite expressions is “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I hated it when she would hurl it at me when I did something wrong but claimed I meant well.

The fact that I meant to do my homework or I did not mean to hurt my sister did not impress my mother. She was clear; it was not the intention that mattered, it was what happened.

I think our work with teams is often filled with good intentions. We want the team to work as a seamless unit, we want the team to support each other and to share common goals. We want the team to see issues from the entire organization's, not a narrower, perspective. That is our and perhaps our teams’ intention.

Yet, most teams do not work that way. Team members get so overwhelmed by their own work that they look for help from other team members, but do not have the time to offer aid to them. They become so engaged in their own daily goals that supporting the wider team fades into the background.

When teams get together for their weekly or biweekly meeting, they act like a working group not an interdependent team. In most organizations, teams appear more like a golf team--we root for each other to get a low score--rather than a basketball team--we are not successful without supporting others and without them supporting us. This lack of team coherence prevents the organization from reaching its full potential. A balkanized organization is less effective than a united one.

Despite the importance of team coherence, most organizations do not spend time developing the team. They do not study the dynamics of the team and the boss is not clear what she expects from team members. Further teams do not create structures to help ensure the team’s success.

The best sport’s coaches are clear about team roles and how each member of the team can best fulfill their roles. That is how championships are won. Organizations should do better in being clear about their team’s roles, team expectations, and team deadlines.


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