Building On The Solid Core

Awareness of the need to change does not mean that the organization is ready for change. The team (not just the individuals) must be willing to change. Many teams are lucky enough to have a solid core of people. This tends to make it easier to change: the team members are more secure in each other; less worried about the impact of change.

In the case of both ParcPlace Systems and of Allianz, we found a solid core of people to start working with. This is almost always a preferred mode to doing team building for its own sake, because the structures are already in place to support the communication and dialogue necessary to reason about improving communication and dialogue!

In the case of ParcPlace Systems, the engineering group was drawn together by a common sense of disappointment and by a desire to have a feeling of control. From one perspective it wasn't an ideal organization for the application of organizational patterns. But on the other hand, desperation can drive out fear. One thing we did when we visited the organization for the role-playing exercise and initial round of evaluations was to leave them with the thought that they were indeed in very bad shape. It wasn't an exaggeration, but coming to grips with that fact perhaps gave the group courage to do things it otherwise wouldn't have done.

In the case of Allianz, the engineering group was one of several groups that had difficulty integrating their processes in the work environment. There was strong support for organizational work in second-level management and to some degree in third-level management, while first-level management (team leaders) were more focussed on technical solutions than organizational solutions. But the support for organizational work was stronger in engineering than in the other organizations. This concern for human issues was evident in the engineering work environment; a high degree of camaraderie and interworking could be found within the engineering team--and with their colleagues in the other teams — and their concerns about organizational health related more to the interactions between teams than to the dynamics within their own teams, as they had already reflected on those and had come to a point of satisfaction with their operation.

In both cases, the adoption of patterns in the small cohesive teams gave those teams tools for dealing with other organizations in the enterprise. This gave those teams a firmer foundation for congruent, productive relationships with the other organizations instead of the more contentious and sometimes combative (either openly or subversively) behaviors of the past. The congruence was a face-off of sorts: it provided a hard wall of integrity and well-reasoned behavior that was more difficult to subdue than in the past. That, in turn caused behavior changes and even doubts in the other organizations, and led to the eventual spread of the change culture to those organizations as well.

The key in both cases was to start with the healthiest team--in terms of its ability to introspect and learn — and to nurture it.