SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT……
The Element: A series of articles to explore and improve the methods used for meetings between small teams striving to perform at an expert level.
Rusty was sitting over a cup of black coffee at Hermann’s Olde Town Grille in downtown Plymouth. Looking at the full size moosehead that mounted prominently over the bar, a familiar face appeared through the double door entrance. It was Freelance, a close friend at the Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS).
“So, how is life treating you?” Freelance asked as he grabbed a high bar stool.
“Life is good. You called the Live Drop meeting, so what’s up?”
“We have been studying 5-Man Teams, where some teams have great results and others are challenged. I can provide positive influence as a Handler with one-on-one meetings when developing an Asset. When it comes to 5-Man Teams, how can I help them?”
“The long answer would cost you a lot of coffee, but I have a team that is ready for a challenging mission. Tell you what, put together an intelligence dossier of your team’s experiences and I will take it from there.”
“That would be great!” said Freelance.
“The 5-Man Team has evolved over time, and some classic examples include military Special Forces and their civilian equivalent, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics). Sometimes referred to as an Element, these teams exist because they are both functional and highly efficient. The team members cross-train for all team roles which provides for dynamic substitution opportunities.”
“What are the roles for each of the team members?”
“The Team Leader receives the mission and provides the team briefings and tactical approach. They are well versed at planning, and fully understand each team member’s competence. The Pointman recommends the route of approach, performs recon, leads the approach and the withdrawal. Defenseman 1 and Defenseman 2 provide support when the team engages resistance. The Rear Security provides cover during approach and withdrawel, and is second in command.”
“Sounds effective for physical missions, but what about doing project work?” asked Freelance.
“The roles can be easily correlated to professional project based teams, putting team members into roles that remove the opinion free-for-all simply by making them accountable. The consequences of poor performance for project work are nowhere near those of a tactical team, but we often accept bad behavior as the normal which has its own set of consequences. The outcome is that the goals are harder to achieve, or worse, not achieved at all. It takes practice with a team that literally becomes a family, and also taking regular practice at performing each team role. If you can meet weekly for 45 weeks a year, each team member can have 9 meetings to perform each of the 5 team roles.”
“Our teams do not operate anywhere near the level that you are describing.” said Freelance.
“Hence your dilemma. The family correlation is more than just a parable, it is a mindset to operate closely and with empathy. The added benefit of the rotation is to see others handle the role, creating opportunity to observe and emulate good behavior. It also stresses the point that nobody is above the other. There are only peers in a family without room for old school, table pounding managers that influence through title and fear. The team succeeds when every team member does the right thing.”
“Who thinks that deeply about this type of stuff?” asked Freelance.
“Obviously I do, and it is obviously a concern, otherwise you would not be seeking help.”
They separated from the live drop meeting, Freelance shook his hand and in seconds was blending into the sidewalk crowd without anyone suspecting that he was a Culture Spy. Rusty grinned as he reached for in his pocket and pulled a thumb drive that was not there before. Dang, his skills have improved.
Back at the CMF headquarters, Rusty started working with a Design Thinking prototype board given to him by Test Drive, a peer senior agent. Rusty would serve as the Team Leader for this project in the first meeting, preparing the initial intelligence brief and tactics. Meetings cost money, and one of the primary roles of the Team Leader is to give the project a starting point, calling meetings as a rally point that shares what is known and conserves project budget for the team’s input and action. When dealing with the 5-Man Team, how many lessons learned could he recall? He took out a pad of Post-It notes, a black sharpie and went to work pulling 5 key topics from his memory.
- Team Locus of Control
- Team Role Competence
- Technical Knowledge Competence
- Project Method Competence
Plugging in the thumb drive, he began his deep dive read into Freelance‘s experiences. Get another coffee because it is going to be a long night!
Design Thinking Step #1 [Empathize] is up in our next issue. You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.