The Element: Chapter 16


Rusty thought deeply about the documentation that was captured from their last meeting. He knew the base industry standards for an Element, an elite 5-Man Team. Heck, he thought about the last 30 years of training and practice with thousands of memorable experiences, but he was always intrigued by hearing a good story told with passion. This type of Design Thinking based discussion either reinforced his own thoughts or expanded upon them as he empathized with his team mates. He looked up from the mission dossier and assumed the Team Leader position for the current meeting, leapfrogging forward as the entire team changed their mission roles.

Team Leader: Rusty
Point-Man: Coach
First Defense-Man: T
Second Defense-Man: Freelance
Rear Security: Test Drive
The Team was sitting in Hotel Indigo in Traverse City, Michigan.

Hotel Indigo

“Time to move the bar up a notch,” Rusty said. “We have discussed the Element moving parts, how they interact together and some of the more popular industry standards that govern them. That encompasses the first three learning steps of an Element.  Learning step #4 is the red diamond phase, to document how the team functions together in actual missions. Coach, you are in the Point-Man position. What is the selected compass siting that we are going to follow today?”

Hotel Indigo Bar

“This stage is where the action starts,” Coach said. “We are at the learning level where we can engage in full missions as a 5-Man Team. I want our group to come up with rapid ideas that encompass the core needs for the team to operate.”

Mission Casino Analyze

“The Golden Rule must guide the team during mission execution,” T said. “The focus of the mission is often formed in empathy of the users, and then empathy for the team members gets lost in the rush of deadlines. We lose site because we do not put ourselves in the shoes of the team member sitting across the table. We cannot be selective about when to apply empathy, it must be the mindset that is always engaged.”

“Now, give your topic some action,” Coach urged. “You must have a good example in your mind.”

“Listen, listen, and then listen some more,” T said. “The main reason that we have roles, and take turns speaking is to allow for the opportunity to be heard. We speak on a topic that draws from our personal experiences, completely, until we tap out and have nothing left to say.”

“And if the team does not allow you time to complete your thoughts?” Coach asked.

“That is why we have Defense-Men on the team,” T said, “to remind folks how to behave.”

“Sounds risky,” Coach said.

“Only risky when good behavior escapes us,” She smirked.

“Freelance, you are up next,” Coach said.

“Understanding is at the top of my list,” Freelance said. “We can listen intently and nod our heads, but that does not equate to interpreting what the speaker is relating to us.”

“Nice,” Coach said. “Give us an example.”

“There are unlimited combinations of solutions to a mission,” Freelance said. “Take a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I like peanut butter on each side of the bread and jelly between the peanut butter. I don’t want the jelly to soak through the bread.”

“Freelance, did you eat before you came to the meting?” Coach asked.

“Well, not really,” Freelance said.

“I thought you were going to dig deep for this example,” Coach smirked. “I guess your thoughts can’t get past the hunger pangs.”

“Bear with me a minute,” Freelance said. “Then you get those folks like Test Drive that don’t like peanut butter in the jelly jar. They logically believe that jelly is easier to wipe off the knife and then you use it for peanut butter last.  Rusty on the other hand, has solved all this by creating his double decker. He puts jelly on both sides of a single piece of bread, and then peanut butter on the outer pieces. The point is that I can talk about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and everyone will have a different picture in their mind. To produce the best understanding of our thoughts, both the speaker and the listeners will need to focus on the details.”

“How?” Coach asked.

“We can incorporate any number of techniques,” Freelance said. “Good interrogation techniques to coax a better understanding does not hurt. The Rear-Security role is practiced at overlooking the discussion to make sure full understanding does not escape. If we get past that role, the Point-Man role provides one last opportunity to wrap it up prior to the end of the meeting.

“Well done Freelance,” Coach said. “Sometimes your take on life experiences just amazes me.  You really are a twisted individual.”

“Just wait for my lasagna analogy,” Freelance said.

“On that note, Test Drive, you are up,” Coach said.

“Meeting on a regular basis as an important affirmation,” Test Drive said. “The team has many moving pieces that can cause failure, and those pieces, or roles, need to be talked about and rehearsed. That my friend is called practice. We need to be putting in the work to create something great.”

“More detail,” Coach urged.

“The team engagement is a social experience,” Test Drive said.

“Like a party?” Coach asked.

“No, not like a party!” Test Drive gasped. “Just a plain old, non-drinking, non-music experience.  The meeting is a social experience between team members. The more we get to know each other, the easier it becomes to open up and share in the future. It creates a comfortable atmosphere where team members are not scared to speak.”

“People are afraid of looking dumb in front of others?” Coach asked.

“Exactly!” Test Drive said. “We are so focused on looking good in front of others.  We often hold back our participation. The ironic thing is that most teams respect action over inaction, even if the action is crude and not complete.”

“And on that note, I think we are done here,” Test Drive said. 

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