Creation by Committee: The Group Project Work Culture

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How many thought that once they graduated from college and entered the ‘real world’ that the group projects would stop? I know I did. I thought, “No more group votes. No more late night revisionist makeovers from the over-achieving pusher who reworks your entire project just hours before submitting it for approval. And no more clashing of unruly agendas!”  Who was I kidding? Once you enter the work force and start to progress in your career, not only does the group environment not disappear, it thrives!

We have become a country powered by workflow collaboration. A culture as much connected by teamwork as were are by the now ever-present connection to that same team. But are we over-investing in the opinions of those unqualified, while we continually crowdsource our workload. Which is effectively leveling bandwidths as it is fragments achievements. A jungle in which only the strong (or the overly vocal) often survive.

This is not a mandate against teamwork. Organizations win and lose as a team, but much like so many championship teams, there are plays, instances within a season, a game where the best equipped player is put in the right spot at the right time to elevate the team’s performance. Most MLB rosters now carry between 12-15 active pitchers, or 60% of their bench throughout the season to be used in specific moments, where their experience and training creates the most positive matchup and elevates the team’s chance at a win. NFL and NHL squads are universally built on specialty teams and strategic lines of talent in order to make the best plays throughout the game.

This idea of specialization and experience, although often laid out in a company’s org chart, is not often committed to in the day-to-day workplace. Initiatives, projects, decisions are now made by panels of employees from multiple departments, with varying degrees of understanding, experience and skin in the end game. Not to mention they often bring clashing agendas to the table. Even those with the best of intentions will come with armed with their own bullet points in order to get at the very least a minimum victory from this collaboration, which in the end can ultimately derail the ability of the team to achieve their initial goals.

So then does it fall to the exemplary employees that are often chosen to participate on these teams or, to the executives that assign them and then leave them to flail away at trying to accomplish a set of lofty goals despite themselves? Should these teams be structured differently? Should team members be chosen based on more aligned or selective criteria? Or should corporate leaders step away, at times, from so quickly putting together a team environment in order to create, develop and implement a specific project when they may already have best player for the job, sitting on the bench just waiting to be called in.

_Matthew Morris; Consumer Insights Strategist, WUSA9, Washington, DC
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