One of the most exciting, inspiring and absolutely essential concepts in the world today is team synergy, which is the result of synergistic teambuilding.
It’s exciting because of the potential for solving “impossible problems.” It’s inspiring because it unleashes potential inside each individual and team to become exponentially more than we could be alone. And it essential because most of the crises in our world today will not be solved any other way. It would not be an exaggeration to say that teamwork that is truly synergistic collaboration is the only way to solve the really big problems in organizations and the world.
The challenge, of course, is that even though they are many examples of synergist teamwork in the animal world, this kind of cooperation is rare among people. But we can learn from the geese that fly overhead in the V-formation.
Because there is so much at stake as our world moves from one crisis to another, from one pandemic to the next and back again, let’s explore how we can begin to find creative solutions to our biggest problems. Let’s work synergistically together.
The Rarity of Team Synergy
As mentioned, this kind of teamwork is rare. Consequently, we’ll need to understand not only what synergistic collaboration is, but also what are the essential components, behaviours and rules of synergy.
Let’s start by defining the word. Literally, synergy means working together. The classic definition states that synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Or, in other words, “the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.” (Cambridge English Dictionary.)
For our purposes, though I would like highlight other aspects of the definition. Synergy is two or more things working together in harmony so that a unity is achieved despite their diversity. Unity involves a oneness of parts that share similarities and yet are different from one another.” (Metacio)
Team Unity is NOT Homogeneity
One common belief today is that the best way to experience unity is to have homogeneity. However, homogeneity does not equal unity. People who have been a part of a team that espouses unity through homogeneity usually finds that their kind of unity is maintained by squelching diverse opinions that surface. Team synergy is absent. In such scenarios, uniformity and conformity rather than being a source of harmony actually work to destroy unity.
Even though unity is possible in homogeneity, I believe the more homogeneous the team, the more unhealthy that expression of unity is. Unhealthy, I say, in that it lacks the synergistic potential that results from diversity. Unity without diversity tends to be shallow and one-dimensional.
Many homogeneous groups, organizations are drawn together by a common purpose and values. However, eventually each finds out that they also have their differences. Newlyweds often learn this lesson in the first year of marriage. Prior to the wedding, they believe they have so much in common. Then, after the wedding they find out how different they are, as they move from idealization to realization. In reality, total homogeneity is a myth. Most homogeneous couples or groups are somewhere along the continuum between homogeneity and heterogeneity.
Team Unity is NOT Conformity and Uniformity
Unity is also not conformity and/or uniformity. In a superficial attempt to “keep the peace”, some members are encouraged to conform their beliefs and behaviors to the norm of the group. Unfortunately, conformity and uniformity have little effect on unity. Rather than true unity that results in team synergy, pressure is applied to influence the individual’s outward, observable behavior in hope that people’s beliefs will also conform to the chosen norms. For these reasons, conformity and uniformity work against unity and synergy.
Both unity and synergy are impossible in such a climate because the means to ensure compliance is either external pressure, fear or exclusion from the inner circle. In this kind of setting all issues are seen as black and white, right or wrong. Those who disagree with the status quo and yet still desire to be included in the group must learn to keep silent or to live hypocritically. When they are with the group they pretend to agree. When they are away from the group, they do what they want.
From time to time, I’ve seen examples of this kind of behaviour in boardrooms around the world. On one such occasion, I attended a leadership retreat for the CEO and upper management team of a large association. The agenda for the day was simple: a discussion regarding state of affairs in the morning and my presentation in the afternoon. To my surprise, the CEO invited me to attend the morning session as an observer. But what surprised me more was the discussion of the board members. With each item of the agenda, the CEO described the issue at length. He gave his opinions, debated with himself the pros and cons of each idea and dominated the floor by sheer volume. When there appeared nothing else for him to say, he opened the meeting up for discussion. As a result, very few people spoke and no one dared to challenge position taken by the CEO. Clearly, it wasn’t a discussion or debate. It was a demand seeking compliance.
After the meeting, during my debrief with the CEO, he mentioned that he was glad that the team was on board and on the same page, but wished that people would participate more. He said, “It’s exhausting that I have to do all the talking.” I replied that I noticed that he did about 90% of the talking. Then, I asked if he’d consider a different structure. He replied, “Like what?” What if at the next meeting, you tell people you’d like to try an experiment: you’ll introduce the topic of discussion, but won’t make any comments until everyone in the room has spoken. He agreed that it would be interesting to try. His willingness to try was the first step away from subtle conformity and attempts to shutdown diverse opinions.
Team Diversity is a Necessary Component of Unity
When considering the place that diversity has in unresolved strife, the point is obvious. Inflexible people who hold differing opinions can cause conflicts and disunity. Unfortunately, it usually only takes one person like this to cause disunity in a group. In this scenario, diversity can be extremely destructive. This often convinces people that diversity is to be avoided if they are to have unity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, inflexibility and other dysergic attitudes are to be avoided. Diversity, though, is an essential ingredient in the attainment of unity and team synergy.
Commonality is an Essential Part of Team Unity
Unity is comprised of two elements, commonality and diversity. However, before I discuss either of these components in greater detail, I want to reiterate that the focus of this section is unity. We have learned that the objective is not to balance unity and diversity, but rather commonality and diversity. It would not be appropriate to balance unity and diversity, as if they were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Rather, diversity is a component of unity, as is commonality.
True unity is not possible unless both are present. Commonality and diversity enable unity to be experienced when both are in balance.
Team Identity is a Unifying Factor
Identity can be a powerful unifying factor. On the side of diversity, there are many characteristics that demonstrate how different people are. In the affirmative, there are many elements that give us a common identity: similarities in background, interests or purpose.
A sense of purpose is vital for both unity and team synergy. In fact, people have the need to experience purpose and meaning. As they are involved in making valuable, cooperative contributions to something meaningful, the result is unity on the team.
Dangers of Team Diversity
Just as there are pitfalls inherent in homogeneous groups, there are also dangers wherever there is diversity. Diversity by no means ensures unity. We must realize that differences have the potential to either “build strong bonds between people or it can break them” (Elmer). The point is that neither homogeneity nor heterogeneity ensures unity. However, it could be stated that often what is behind the fracturing of diverse relationships is “a failure to understand and adjust to the differences we have inherited” (Elmer).
Therefore, even though I encourage people to embrace diversity, I realize there are potential problems when diverse people work together. With this caution stated, diversity opens a group to exciting possibilities. It need not be seen as a threat, but an asset. Diversity “helps us to be creative and innovative” (Kouzes and Posner). We will make better decisions and have better results. Likewise, “we are also made more adaptable and resilient” (Kouzes and Posner). Team synergy absolutely requires diversity.
Appreciate Team Diversity
We must appreciate diversity. That is, we must know it well and place a high value on it. Let me illustrate. I was raised on traditional North American food, meat and potatoes. But my taste buds really began to live when I tasted foods from around the world. For me the best kind of meal is a smorgasbord.
A few years ago I was a volunteer teacher for an immigrant services organization in Canada. At the end of semester, we celebrated with an international potluck supper. Each new comer brought a special dish that was represented of their country: Sri Lankan curries, sushi from Japan, chicken shawarma from the Middle East. In the middle of a delicious mouthful, one distraught Jamaican man approached me. He told me what had just happened. He was walking through the dinner line, filling up his plate. When he came to the dish he had brought, spicy jerk pork, he beamed with pride. Turning to one of Canadian volunteers behind him, he said, “Try some of this. It’s good!” The man took one look at it and said, “No thanks, I don’t eat that kind of food.”
This story was unfortunate for many reasons. The Canadian man was insensitive and offensive in his comment to the Jamaican man, and he never even tried the dish to see if he liked it. Diversity is something which people must explore and appreciate. In order to do this, people must understand their own uniqueness as well as the diversity of others.
I stated earlier that in order to actualize team synergy, we must develop an attitude toward diversity and commonality expressed best by the term appreciation. To better understand the various gradations or degrees of appreciation, we will consider positive, neutral, negative and individualistic attitudes.
Positive Attitudes Towards Team Diversity
Researcher Douglas Matacio interviewed people regarding their attitudes toward diversity. He concluded that “positive evaluations of diversity were spoken of in the following terms: respect, appreciation, admiration, healthiness, maintenance, complementariness, necessity, recognition, and sensitivity”. Most people would agree with these as positive affirmations of diversity. But these affirmations are more complex than merely encouraging people to keep a positive attitude. Sometimes these attitudes wax and wane, in the same way the moon goes through its cycles. For instance, I found that prior to an experience with diversity or at the outset, diversity seems wonderful. Then when the reality of it catches up with people, they resist it and wish for simpler times. Finally, with a combination of time, patience and persistence, people begin to see some delightful and unexpected benefits of diversity.
In the middle of the diversity continuum are people who support diversity, but whose attitudes are neutral. They are not pushing hard for diversity or effusive in their praise. Rather, they agree that diversity is a good idea, necessary even, but they realize it will not be easy. They are cautious, but are still committed to diversity. This shows that they truly value team synergy.
I include this group within our discussion of positive attitudes because I think they provide a necessary balance to the context. People who express neutral attitudes toward diversity such as tolerance, maintenance, and sensitivity help those who have positive attitudes to approach diversity realistically. Diversity is a difficult path because it is the context of both unity and disunity. We enter into diverse situations with our eyes open. It will not be easy. A neutral/realistic attitude is a necessary synergistic balance for those who think that we just need to get diverse people together and wonderful things will happen.
Negative Attitudes Towards Team Diversity
At the other end of the spectrum are negative attitudes toward diversity. Usually these attitudes have been ingrained either by fear, through prejudice or negative experiences that individuals have had with someone from a different background or ethnic group. The tendency for many people who hold negative attitudes toward diversity is to keep these feelings to oneself or repeat them to people with whom they feel comfortable. Negative attitudes in whatever form will hinder the unity and synergy of a group.
I conclude from this discussion that true unity can only be defined as pluriform unity, a oneness that is composed of a plurality of parts, as well as diversity within those parts. In addition to this, as we describe the context of unity we recognize the importance of commonality and diversity. These two areas are essential for unity.
So…What is Team Synergy?
The word synergy is a derivative of the Greek verb, sunergeo, which means to work together. What makes the word so fascinating is that it implies two or more different things working together in harmony so that a unity is achieved despite the diversity of things. Synergy is the state in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. The concept of synergy teaches that there is a greater potential when people work cooperatively. Thinking synergistically, it would be true that 1 + 1+ 1= 5 or even more.
The second term is dysergy. It appears to be the opposite of synergy. Whereas synergy literally means to work together, dysergy means “not working together” (Matacio). In a colorful way, Steven Coulter describes dysergy as a group which “works against itself, tying up a great deal of energy with much spinning of wheels, grinding of gears, and gnashing of teeth”. Dysergy occurs when there is diversity without unity of purpose. Matacio suggests that the term dysergy refers to effects that hinder or impair synergy, “where the result is low co-operation or none at all”. Unfortunately, there are many examples of diverse groups which work against themselves causing dysergy.
The third concept introduced here is negative synergy. This is synergy “for negative rather than positive ends” (Matacio). It is a counterfeit synergy that works co-operatively to accomplish evil goals and destructive purposes.
Team Synergy Metaphors
Consider what geese can teach us about synergy. Geese are communal birds and are committed to working cooperatively. Together they accomplish more than an individual bird could alone. This is demonstrated best when they fly in a “V” formation. The leader breaks the wind, which enables the followers to find an uplift in the vacuum created by the bird ahead of it. Because of the greater exertion expended by the lead bird, it quickly tires. However, its place is then taken by another, while it moves down the line to recover. The result of this cooperative effort is that the flock can achieve greater speed together as well as travel almost twice as far as a single bird. The lesson from this is that people who “share a common sense of direction and sense of community get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on one another’s thrust” (Maxwell).
As was mentioned above, the lead bird will tire much more quickly than those behind it will because the leader is breaking the wind resistance. It is fascinating that among geese, it is not much of an issue who is the leader; when the leader tires from its efforts, it simply moves to the rear and allows another to take its place. How many leaders are secure enough that they can allow others to take over when they are tired?
Another important observation is that whenever the flock is flying, they are honking. Far different than the stereotypical backseat driver, when geese are honking, it appears that they are trying to encourage the leader to keep up the good work. This adds a new dimension to our discussion of synergy, namely, the emotional effect that encouragement from the ranks has on the leader. Whereas discouraging words or negative comments can sap our strength and resolve, words of encouragement have the opposite effect; they empower the leader to give his or her best effort. In addition, giving encouragement seems to be important and beneficial for the flock as well. It creates a sense of teamwork and ownership that spurs the flock to reach beyond its potential through synergy.
The principle of synergy is demonstrated in many ways by geese. Together, they fly faster, farther and accomplish more than they could by flying alone. These conclusions, of course, speak to issues of productivity, quantity and quality. The efforts of an average flock of geese would produce more (quantity) and what they produce would be far better (quality), than the efforts of the strongest goose of the flock.
Values that Support Team Synergy
We have defined and illustrated synergy by way of metaphors. Let us now discuss values conducive to synergy. This section will then be contrasted with dysergic or negatively synergistic values.
I begin with the key value of respect. When others know that we respect them and their opinions, it creates a safe environment to begin sharing our differences. The converse is also true. Without respect, we have no forum or permission to work on those issues that divide us. Respect has two important aspects, “empathy for the other’s feelings, perspectives and capacities, and a challenge to fully responsible behavior” (Augsburger). For many people this redefines respect, showing that it contains both empathy and confrontation.
When studying, it’s clear to see that team synergy thrives on openness. When people feel that they are being told the truth and that all subjects can be discussed openly, it creates an atmosphere of trust. This is honesty. Openness encourages people to speak freely and candidly with one another. Nothing is hidden, especially information that is important for them to know, information that helps them to do their job more effectively.
Closely related to openness and honesty is the value and practice of good communication. By definition good communication must be reciprocal: from the communicator to the receptor and back again. I would propose a model I call the Reciprocal Relevance Model. (1) In this model the author attempts to communicate his or her message to the audience, who, in turn discusses the inferences received with the author. (2) At some time during the dialogue, the audience switches roles with the author and reciprocates by communicating his or her message to the author. (3) Because the dialogue is collegial, rather than paternalistic, they not only communicate effectively, but they learn from one another. This model reflects the fluidity of dialogue and an effective relationship.
Even though effective communication is everyone’s responsibility, leaders need to ensure that good communication is happening. Edwin Friedman describes this as the leader “staying in touch” with the group.
To create synergistic teams, members need to learn to strive for equality in their relationships. This, of course, will be more difficult for the individuals or group that is dominant in the organization. History teaches us that most people who are in power or in a dominant position do not want to share that power or give it up. But if our goal is to create teams that are the most productive, most creative and most effective at solving the world’s most difficult problems, then we need to drastically change the composition and power structures of our teams.
The abundance paradigm states that there are plenty of resources to go around if we use them wisely and consider everyone. It believes in win-win scenarios, Non-Zero-Sum thinking. The abundance paradigm is in contrast to the scarcity paradigm, which assumes that there are limited resources. “It is based on the assumption that a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side” (Matacio). This premise inhibits cooperation because each side refuses to work with the other out of fear that there will not be enough to go around. We must be committed to an abundance paradigm, which enables diverse parts to work together for the good of the whole- instead of competing against each other.
Marginality in Teams
To understand diversity’s role in synergy, another concept must be discussed- marginality. Matacio points out that marginality is the zone where synergy takes place and is an extremely important concept for achieving unity in diversity through synergy. Although marginality may denote something unimportant, without influence, subordinate, or inferior, in actual fact, marginality means just the opposite. Edgar Schein goes on to say that in order for a leader to be effective, he or she must be marginal. Leaders must “make themselves sufficiently marginal in their own organizations to be able to perceive its assumptions objectively and nondefensively”. In embracing marginality, a leader is part of the organization and yet to some degree separate from, in between and in both at the same time. This marginal position has potential for influence and is the sphere where synergy takes place.
The Adventure of Team Synergy
Part of what makes synergy exciting is that it is almost always an adventure in uncharted territory. As people work together they discover things that can only come about through synergy. This experience will change them in some way. Each person or group that changes or grows finds it necessary to add to their identity. This does not mean that they throw out their pre-synergistic identity; as they grow, they add to. To illustrate, think of the growth of a child. When a young person celebrates his or her eighteenth birthday, they do not change their name. However, they do see themselves differently. They are no longer considered a young person, but an adult. Other people experience a change in the way they view themselves when they obtain a university degree or get married. Similarly, groups that experience synergy will be so positively affected by this process that it changes the way they view themselves and their colleagues.
Another strategy that encourages synergy is inclusion. An inclusive approach seeks to draw people in rather than to keep them out. It believes that more is better. It tries to think of ways that include people and make them feel that they belong. As they feel welcomed, people feel comfortable participating and contributing to the group. Because diversity is welcome, members do not feel pressure to conform, but are encouraged to bring their uniqueness and join in. Also, leaders need to be constantly aware of who is being included and who is not. Bridging or interaction between groups is also important so that each individual and group feels that they are connected to the whole organization and to the other parts or groups.
One synergistic metaphor that exemplifies the inclusive approach is the family. In every family we see elements of unity and diversity. The idea of the family also carries with it positive images of belonging, place and value of the individual. No matter how old or young, whether the siblings are twins or separated by many years, each person belongs and occupies his or her place in the family.
As mentioned, when diversity is present, there is always the potential for difficulties or conflicts. Too often people with diverse opinions try to resolve their differences in the midst of a stalemate by declaring that they will “agree to disagree.” Though this approach is popular, it does little to resolve differences and each person merely tolerates the other’s position. Tolerance is better than ridiculing someone’s perspective or failing to listen, but it still does not provide the conditions where synergy is possible.
Forbearance Trumps Tolerance on Teams
Perhaps a better approach is forbearance. The difference between forbearance and tolerance is that tolerance does not require much from either side. Differing groups can remain passive and unconcerned with the other’s problems and perspectives. Forbearance, on the other hand, is intentional and active. It requires each group to “bear for” the other and to help others shoulder the load.
Forbearance also requires that at one time or another, one side will have to give in or defer to the other for the good of the larger group. The group that displays forbearance in attitude and behavior does so knowing that on another occasion, forbearance will be reciprocated. Of course, if forbearance is not reciprocal, synergy will not work. Equally important is trust. If one side does not trust the other, they will not give in to the other.
To sum up then, forbearance is voluntary. Groups must choose to trust each other and learn to give in to each other. It is only as they travel down this pathway that they will be able to achieve their purpose together and realize their full potential.
Synergistic vs Dysergic Teams
A common attitude in postmodern society is often verbalized, “you believe what you want and I will believe what I want.” At first, this sounds tolerant, but behind it is a dogged loyalty to homogeneity. The attitude would be better expressed, “don’t you dare try to change my way of thinking.” Why not? Because each person is convinced that they are right. Emmanuel Livinas warns us that the result of such thinking can lead to violence. Some people feel the only way to get a divergent thinker to agree with the group is to threaten, abuse, humiliate or ostracize him or her. Totalization either “dominates or eliminates that which is perceived as ‘other’” (Livinas). People who are committed to homogeneity often go to great lengths to totalize the other person’s accounting of reality.
Another dynamic that is problematic in North American culture is competition. It tends to result from an over emphasis on individualism and personal achievement. If this attitude is not addressed, people will not be working together, but competing against their team members.
Another area that hinders unity is the loss of identity some experience when they enter into diverse relationships, especially multi-cultural relationships. Eva Hoffman describes the loss of identity and subsequent violation of being changed by another person and their worldview. Violation is an apt descriptor to explain what can happen. It is painful to be confronted with another’s reality, simply because it threatens our own perceptions. People who experience a loss of identity need talk openly with one another about these fears and feelings, so that they do not remain in violation, but rather embrace positive change. The result is synergy; both people become more than they were before.
Another important task is understanding the various worldviews that individuals or groups hold. Each person functions according to various systems of thought. The differences from one system to the next will change the way we “define our sense of self, organize our lives, group our priorities, structure relationships, analyze ideas, and respond to innovation and new initiatives” (Armour and Browning). Each individual committed to unity in diversity through synergy must recognize that each of us is diverse in the way we think.
If people do not understand worldview differences, they assume that people from other backgrounds are just stubborn individuals “who refuse to see things my way.” The result, of course, is that their frustration polarizes others, rather than creating a climate of understanding. Also, knowing that others operate from different systems of thought will better enable people to be sensitive to these differences.
Overlapping Stages of Team Synergy
We will now look at the three overlapping stages of synergy: appreciating diversity and commonality, understanding identity and universality, and integrating parts and wholes.
First, let us look at diversity in greater detail. One component of diversity that requires further attention is the naming of the various parts. The precursor to recognizing the varieties of diversity is to name them. Some people are fearful of diversity and feel this gives undo attention to our differences, which might cause disunity. They feel it is better to pretend we are not all that different. This belief has been addressed earlier. Rather, the first stage of synergy suggests the opposite, that we should name our differences.
In the same vein, we need to name and appreciate our commonality. By far the most important aspect of what we have in common is our mission and purpose.
The second stage takes an in-depth look at the identity of the parts and the universality of the whole. Within this subsection we will address the issue of how the parts can “maintain their unique identity” within the team synergy process. In order for the parts to better understand their identity, individual groups must do three things: separate, affirm their name, and re-identify with the whole (Matacio).
The importance of this section within the synergy matrix cannot be over emphasized. It is vital that individuals and groups maintain their identity throughout the synergization process. The first step is to separate from the whole. This may sound dangerous or even dysergic. However, the purpose is not to stymie or subvert synergy, but for the group to affirm their identity within the whole. As mentioned earlier, Victor Turner writes about the importance of marginalization during the liminal stage of transitions. During separation or marginalization, individuals, as well as homogeneous groups, will find it necessary to talk amongst themselves about their own identity. They need to ask themselves questions like: How do we view ourselves? What are our needs? What do we value? What activities do we enjoy that others do not? During this time of separation from the whole they clarify who they are.
The value of this kind of activity is that each group or individual becomes comfortable with themselves and their identity. As a result, they are able to articulate who they are as a well-defined part of the whole.
The second step in identifying the parts is naming. Each group would have the task of describing themselves. This process would be beneficial both for that group and for the rest of the organization. Each group would be challenged to choose descriptive words that help others to understand how they see themselves. This act of naming themselves would help others understand them and also counter the destructive side of naming, that of labeling.
The third step is re-identification to the whole. The parts come back to the whole with a new understanding of themselves and a desire to identify with the whole, while at the same time maintaining their own identity. Because each group has affirmed its identity, it is not afraid of being swallowed by the whole. This allows each group to re-identify with anticipation that something new and exciting will result. This is the foundation for synergy.
In the previous section, we emphasized the importance of the parts, the borders and boundaries, if you will. The other side of the equation is the universality of the whole, the unity of all the parts into one entity.
From time to time, my wife and I like do puzzles. First, we look at the beautiful on the front of the box, noting its complexity and intricacy. Then we dump all the pieces onto the table. It’s always a bit overwhelming to see all the individual pieces as we look for clues as to how they will all fit together. It always feels like such an accomplishment to put the last piece in place. But it’s also fun to see how individual pieces fit together, especially pieces that don’t appear to fit at first. We were meant, as parts, to see how we fit together in the whole.
The third stage of synergy integrates two important elements, parts and wholes. Of course, this is the most difficult stage, getting the parts to work cooperatively in the whole so that synergy is achieved. To explain how integration might best be accomplished, I will approach the topic by answering obvious questions.
What Paradigm Best Enables Team Synergy?
Most people do not naturally find themselves in synergistic relationships and consequently have no experience with how synergy works. The paradigm many people hold to is a scarcity paradigm, which believes that there are limited resources. On the other hand, a synergy paradigm believes that there is an abundance of resources and therefore the possibilities are endless. People will integrate and work with one another if they believe that their efforts will make a difference.
Where Will Team Synergy Take Place?
Synergy takes place best in the margins (Matacio). To understand why synergy occurs best here and not at the center, we must understand one of the dynamics of change. Many people find certain aspects about change difficult: the uncertainty, lack of control, as as the speed and rate of change. In addition, people who stand to lose something from a proposed change will often resist the change. For these reasons, many people favor the status quo, and resist change and synergy. However, people who are marginal in their own organization are able to perceive its assumptions more objectively and nondefensively. They are not so enmeshed in the inner workings of the organization and can respond creatively to new challenges (Schein).
Who are the People Most Likely to Embrace Team Synergy?
If the margin is where synergy takes place, then marginalized people are the group that are best qualified to synergize. They understand marginality at a very deep level. They have lived in the margins all their lives. Not only do we have a lot to learn from marginalized people, but working cooperatively will result in greater unity and mission accomplishment.
How do we Integrate People to Enable True Team Synergy?
Matacio found through his research that “integration is achieved not by striving for a standard of absolute equality of parts, but by aiming for fairness”. It would not be healthy to enforce a rigid approach to integration. In fact, fairness should be our goal. Fairness takes into consideration the talents, abilities and resources of the individuals. It encourages everyone to participate according to their abilities for the benefit of the whole. Flexibility is encouraged because we know that each individual or group will integrate differently.
How Long Will It Take to Achieve Team Synergy?
Simply stated, a long time! Synergy is not the easiest or the quickest way. However, I believe it is the best way. We must be committed to the process and to patience. Both are required to allow groups to work together to address conflicts that arise and to make good decisions.
Let me conclude this section by stating that when parts are integrated, it will most likely be a new creation. Certainly there will be recognizable elements from the past; all the parts are still the same. However, the difference is the process that the parts went through while integrating. In addition, not only will the result be new, it will also be unpredictable. There will undoubtedly be surprises as to what develops synergistically.
SUMMARY GUIDELINES TO BUILD SYNERGISTIC TEAMS
- Focus equally on individual parts and the whole.
- Conflict is inevitable. Resolve conflicts between parts openly and honestly to create and sustain team synergy.
- Overcome barriers through open-minded discussions, questioning assumptions and avoiding seeing issues as black or white.
- Find creative ways to ensure that actions will be equally beneficial for each part as well as the whole.
- Each part should define itself in order to understand itself and how it will interact with the other parts and the whole.
- Communication should happen often between all parts and between each part and the whole.
- Integration of parts should be achieved by fairness or equity.
- The integration of parts and whole will differ from group to group.
- Look for creative solutions to integrate parts, rather than domination or compromise.
- Encourage socializing and friendships outside the work place in order to enhance deeper integration of parts and wholes.
- Encourage parts to explore and exchange roles to avoid too much specialization.
- Make Team Synergy a Primary Focus! (Matacio)