Teams! A word as synonymous with business school as it was with being a Communication Studies major in undergrad. Most classes once I declared my major were structured around collaborative papers, group projects, and team presentations. Thankfully, there were more highs than lows, but more importantly I made some of my best friends and most lasting learning through these experiences.
Cue BGI Q1 – our kickoff of virtual, topical speed dating to determine with whom and about what we would be investing a large part of our time and efforts to collectively for the year following was interesting to say the least. That said I was excited, expectant and enjoyed the process from the beginning. As the then unknown names and voices began to chime in and add words to what I am here to study – our food systems gone awry – the synergy in our ongoing conversation was evident. Discussions of favorite food & ag books & films easily flowed and soon links of recommended resources were flying back and forth.
As our team solidified from a place of shared passion our “meaningful common purpose” emerged, maybe not quickly or easily, but eventually this key essential discipline noted by HBR’s “The Discipline of Teams” became a compass that drove our interactions. From there other noted disciplines came naturally: “specific performance goals that flow from common purpose, a mix of complementary skills, a strong commitment to how the work gets done, and mutual accountability” (Katzenbach, 1993). Each of these evolved over first quarter and various deliverables, but being rooted in the heart of the problem communally keeping us up at night encouraged us through navigating the necessary variables of group process.
Along with this team mainstay of “[setting] a compelling direction,” we also embedded an “embrace [of our] own quirkiness,” mentioned in HBR’s “Why Teams Don’t Work” (Coutu, 2009). I have never experienced more laughter and levity with a group that, despite all, manages to be productive too. With fu(hh)n as a team value, that has set the tone for not ever taking ourselves too seriously, whether that means openness to a crazy idea or willingness to go back to the drawing board multiple times. Knowing that we will enjoy the process as much as any outcome has made investment invitational in each step of teamwork.
In looking ahead, HBR’s “Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams” names some factors contributing to success. Among them our team selected the goals of cultivating a “gift culture” and “strong sense of community” moving forward (Gratton & Erickson, 2007). Through being intentional about using the language of ongoing regard and building in time for regular, meaningful feedback we hope these aspects will add continued dimensions to our combined energy.