Thoughts on teamwork

July 23, 2013

As mentioned in my last blog post, here’s an excerpt from one of those papers that I wrote in grad school:

 

I grew up playing volleyball, so I can say that I’m keenly aware of the importance of teamwork. The outcome of a game is almost directly proportional to the quality of teamwork displayed by a team. The same is true in the workplace—teamwork matters.

Teamwork is important because people need each other. Working in an organization is not like playing golf or participating in a race — it is more like playing volleyball, basketball, or football. The success of an organization simply does not rest on one person. We need each other’s contributions in the forms of skills, talents, gifts, ideas, and insights. In other words, it’s important to treat every person in the organization as someone with a valuable contribution.

George Cladis offers an observation about the postmodern world that we live in: “A premium is put on including people in decision making rather than excluding them.” People want to be able to contribute, especially if they have a stake in the outcomes of the decisions made.

As I look back, I have been blessed to be able to work in several organizations that cultivated a culture of teamwork. Systems were in place to ensure that every group involved in each project had a voice, and as such, the decisions made were valuable, reasonable, and actionable.

For instance, at MTV Philippines, every time we had a new show or event in the works, a meeting was called that had at least one representative from the creative and content (C&C), marketing and events, press relations, advertising sales, and client services departments. Depending on the nature of the project, there was a project head who called the meeting and presented the project details, status, assignments, and deliverables (if we were launching a television show, a C&C producer would take the lead; if it was an event, a marketing and events coordinator; if it was a press conference, a press relations executive, and so on and so forth).

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Here’s an example of what one of those meetings looked like. In this circle, our programming, creative and content, on-air promotions, client services, marketing, and communication departments were all represented. I don’t even know why I have this photo (Drew, if you’re reading this, I miss that face!)

After the project head made his or her brief presentation, each department representative had the chance to ask questions, offer suggestions, and request for changes. Before the meeting was adjourned, the project head provided a recap of what was discussed and a list of action steps for each department, and each representative had to acknowledge his or her department’s assignments and deadlines. Smaller meetings occurred between various team members during the campaign period (i.e. the lifetime of a project), then at least one pre-production meeting with all department representatives was done a week before the project launch to make sure everything was in place. Once the project was completed (i.e. the show season finished airing or the event was finished), the team was gathered for a post mortem session to celebrate the completion of the project, to affirm everyone on the team, and to bring up any points of improvement for the future.

This setup helped us work more efficiently and our organization’s culture of teamwork was strengthened as each project was completed. I agree with author Daniel Levi as he points out, “Many of the benefits of creating a team occur over the long run rather than during the first project the team performs.” As we did more projects together, our team kept growing stronger.

What we did at MTV wasn’t really rocket science–at least I didn’t think so. I’ve had the chance to work in organizations that had similar systems in place, so I had assumed that this kind of work culture was normal. But I’ve also worked with organizations that operated differently, so now I know better than to take what we had for granted.

I love working in teams, and I’d gladly do so again.

By Liz

Writer, blogger, strategist, communications specialist, doodler, traveler, adventurer, author/illustrator of Art to Feed the Heart, founder of Travelthecity.com, doer of random stuff.

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