The Element: Chapter 10


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.

Little Caesars Arena

The 5-Man Team were weaving their way through a crowd of people sporting red and white colored jerseys at the Little Caesars Arena. The location of their meeting was chosen by Rusty, once again rotating into the Team Leader position. While many marveled at the new arena that opened in 2017, most Detroit natives became a part of tradition to watch the Red Wings play at The Joe, short for Joe Louis Arena.

They were walking out after a 4-0 blowout, as the Red Wings racked up another loss. The 5-Man Team was still in good spirits, just being out on the town together for a little team bonding.

Just then Henrik Zetterberg appeared on the television, with a row of microphones extended toward him.

Rusty said, “Shhh,” and pointed toward television on the wall.

“We started cheating again,” Zetterberg said, “and can’t play that way if you want to win games. There’s too much poke-and-hope on a lot of players. If you want to be a solid good player in this league, and if you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way. Poke-and-hope might get you 25-30 goals, but you will never win anything. You have to play defense first. We have guys in here who have enough skill to create chances and get enough chances. You can’t force and gamble all the time. You have to do it right and eventually you will get chances. It’s not often you get chances when you cheat. Sometimes you will get rewarded but not in the long run.”

Asked how long it takes a young player to learn that, Zetterberg said, “some longer than others.”

“That was powerful,” Rusty said. “If you have not figured it out, cheating is when teammates skip steps in a process, the rules that are practiced and guide how a team plays together. A single person is not better than when a team engages and works together. In an era where we enter the workforce and think that we can do it better or faster on our own, that maybe true. The contribution may work under certain circumstances, but in the long run, the team will eventually suffer. Winning streaks last when the team engages, and they end when individuals choose to do their own thing, and cheat, instead of playing the right way.”

T saw the correlation immediately. She said, “the Culture Spy Syndicate (CSS) output is miles apart from producing hockey wins that bond a franchise and the local community in Detroit. Are the teams really that different when it comes to our standing amongst other spy organizations, or how we gain and hold the top market position? Both are professional. Both strive to be the best.”

“You guys are turning this into a work meeting,” Freelance said as he scowled. “I thought we were out to have a good time tonight?”

“Firstly, we are an elite team,” Rusty said, “and elite teams take advantage of the moment.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” Freelance slurred. “I understand what you are saying, but I just had 8 tall Labatt Blues, and I don’t know how I can add anything worthwhile to the conversation in my current state. The Red Wings do not have the standing they once had, taking their last Stanley Cup a decade ago. The Red Wings Captain’s words obviously resonate with a warning of bad behavior. He played in an era where their team was on top of the world, and the competition was not as tough because they were just that much better at getting the job done. They were better because the whole team engaged to make it happen. Did their young teammates cheat? No, they did not! Did the seniors hog the puck and tell the young players to wait your turn, playing a support role for years? No, they did not! The captain is a typical senior, whining about the younger teammates not following the rules. Seems to me the rules should be reviewed often, and need to make sense before we just blindly follow them. I think he should use the young talent that the team was blessed with, and make opportunities for the entire team!”

Freelance grinned, as he figured out that he had found a home with his new teammates.

He continued his banter by saying, “and another thing, you can’t just throw a new guy into the deep end of the pool with cinder blocks tied to their ankles either. If you do, you should expect a bunch of rules to be broken as they struggle to survive. Before we get to creating opportunities for shortcuts, we need to have a plan.”

“Dang, give me what Freelance is drinking!” Test Drive Exclaimed. “I think you did just fine son. For some reason, I think you are finally warming up to us.”

“Don’t worry about being a little bit out of it,” Coach said to Freelance, “our fearless leader took one for the team last night.”

“Yeah, tell the folks how you willfully took a laced drink from a spy that you had never met before,” T said.

“Rusty, I just presented a lunch and learn on precautions and techniques to recognize threats when an agent is in the field,” said Test Drive.

“Yeah, I was multitasking during the presentation,” Rusty said. “Probably should have paid more attention to the part about refusing rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon from a woman with an incredible British accent.”

Just then, Rusty caught an elbow in the ribs from his wife, T, with just enough force to make him wince with pain, and think twice about continuing with sarcasm.

“OK,” Rusty said. “The CSS put me into a coma-like dream state where I kept reliving the same moment. It was deja-vu, and right at the moment where I had the Element Mission definition nailed down in my head, the dream restarted.”

“Explains the reason you are drinking coffee tonight,” Freelance mumbled.

“You are very observant Freelance,” Rusty said. “When listening to Henrik Zetterberg’s reason for their loss, it sparked an idea that engagement might be at the center of our mission definition.”

Rusty took a deep breath and said, “how might we inspire engagement to create an Element, an elite team, from a 5-Man Team?”

“So, because an elite team requires engagement from the entire team, there is a human choice that needs to be inspired?” T asked.

“Exactly!” Rusty exclaimed.

“The scope is too broad,” Coach said. “Maybe limit it to the best 5?”

“It sounds like a good direction,” Freelance said.

Everyone nodded as they pondered the new mission definition.

“How might we define the top 5 tactics to inspire engagement to create an Element, an elite team, from a 5-Man Team?”

Design Thinking [Ideate] Chapter 11 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.


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