Fostering collaborative leader-less teams – Small units’ tactic #3

Fostering collaborative leader-less teams  – Small units’ tactic #3

Dinosaurs became extinct because they were not quite agile to adapt to ever changing conditions of our planet. They were ferocious giants dominating entire planet, but, small mammals sneaked out from nowhere and stolen their glory and power..

All history of live on Earth is endless struggle for adaptiveness and effectiveness. But when one paces silent museum’s halls it could be noticed, that absolute specialization in some particular area made creatures to be more vulnerable to environmental changes… Giants were quite awkward and become easy prey to predators. Whereas as the most flexible and dynamic creatures were always small in size and could not posses enough brain..

So, let’s try to apply some conclusions from history of evolution, because more than 2 billion of endless and vast experiences are really worthy to learn from! What is the main lesson it had brought for us? I think - success story about some small, weak, vulnerable creature that overcome all challenges (as I have a trust in human smartness – it will overcome future ones as well). What are key qualities that contributed to such success – cooperation, adaptiveness, agility, and generalism. (Of course these are qualities of sapient human..)

So, we have combined our groups (proto-teams) and set our goal (to make team from a group). It is now time to assess what we deal with and set rules by which all would be acting.

Practitioner at this point could wonder – what is the reason to pay so big attention to team building topic? There are several reasons: naturally cooperating team experiences less conflicts, requires minimal to no need in management, its effectiveness up to 5-7 times higher than of just a group, and what is more important – such teams prone to information synthesis, i.e. generation of new ideas and methodics.. Besides of just producing more ideas psychometria notes that in such cases synthesized ideas are more mature and implementation ready (due to internal innate cooperation of diverse skills and minds sets)

But nothing comes on its own... Prehistoric Ocean has been void for about billion years till life started to grow, we may not wait for that long and have only hope on divine intervention. So, our journey would be from governance – through influencing – to self-management.


For each member of team(s) shall be created PPA card (Personal Profile Attributes) with the following information: Full Name, DOB, Family status, Spouse, Children, Address, Contacts (phone#, email), Major function, Personality Type ( *1 ) (as per either assessment made by HR department, or assessed by tests), Personal interests and self-development directions, Self-sufficiency level( *2 ), Background, Courses and Conferences attended, Tasks assigned and completed.

(I assume there is no need to explain that PPA cards are to be kept strictly confidential and only managerial staff shall have access to them. PPA card shall be reviewed approximately every 6 months to track progress)

*1 Personality type – any classification could work here, we just stick to 9 Personality types (see below) as they are defined by “Enneagram Institute” materials. This approach is quite widely accepted, provides granular and intuitively understandable classification and what is very valuable – there are number of test methodics available in public domain.

1. “The Reformer”- is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.

2. “The Helper” - is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.

3. “The Achiever” - is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.

4. “The Individualist” - is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.

5. “The Investigator” - is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.

6. “The Loyalist” - is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.

7. “The Enthusiast” - is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.

8. “The Challenger” - is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.

9. “The Peacemaker” - is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

*2 As per Bernard Diridollou we distinguish four major levels of self-sufficiency development in team members.

Fostering collaborative leader-less teams  – Small units’ tactic #3

Using information from PPA card manager (or any person in that capacity) may quickly assess any team member and choose appropriate tactic. Also having on file generic personal information helps with planning of common events and establishing of more personalized communications.

Rules of Engagement (ROE)

Any organized and meaningful activity is a game that we play against chaos and uncertainty. And as for every game we shall set rules by which this game will be played. Each and every rule shall satisfy six major criteria:

1. It has to be clearly and unambiguously formulated. If there are any exceptions to the rule – they are to be defined clearly as well from the very beginning.

2. It has to be implementable. (It is better don’t have rules at all than have rules that may not be either implemented, or enforced)

3. It has to be useful for team. (i.e. everybody shall see practical use of any particular rule.) And such usefulness shall be (ideally) mutual.

4. Rule has to be based on clear mutual agreement (between team and management)

5. Rule has to bear certain protective function. (Rules shall bring in sense of mutual security that is required for both sides to reach common goal)

6. At the same time, rule has to posses certain flexibility (or there shall be provided mechanism of rules extending/modifying). There is management has to be quite careful – flexibility shall not mean having ability to tweak rules to their profanation or annulation.

7. There are shall not be too many rules. You should not create kind of department-wise “constitution” – it would be just wasting of time. Ideally – such set shall be limited by 9-12 rules and has motivational aspect as rules or mission is guided by.

(Anecdotic evidence. I once witnessed situation where organizational structure (managerial staff and its structure) has been considered as a classified document. No doubt it resulted in never ending mess of sending documents to wrong persons and long, almost endless decisions making and getting approvals process)

And last but not least – as clearly as we set rules we shall define functions of team members. What is the purpose of team member function definition? First and main reason – clear and explicit definition of MAIN (PRIMARY) function(s) of every team member – enforces and supports rules by which team will be playing. Goalkeeper in soccer team could play as quarterback – but in such case gates will stay unguarded…

In our dynamic and ever changing world MAIN (PRIMARY) function(s) of team members may and should shift in course of time, but such shift shall be clearly and publicly noted and announced via social dynamic support we outlined in previous installment.

I specifically put emphasis on word MAIN (PRIMARY), because we shall not restrict individuals, but everybody shall be aware about the difference between main purpose and voluntarily taken responsibilities.

If all that preparatory work is done properly at this point we have proto-team(s) that have great chances to evolve into self-managed multi-disciplinary team. Of course on its way it has to overcome conceptual blocks, semantic gaps, and some social barriers. But through properly supported (via indirect influencing) evolutionary process such team gains mindfulness of process, bias toward action, and “organic” collaboration.

We may not just hope that mechanically brought together diverse people will somehow get organized and develop effective form of collaboration. Certain measures need to be undertaken to select proper people (as it has been outlined in installment#1), provided environment of positive social dynamic (installment#2), and set up required infrastructure supporting team(s) evolution in proper direction.

Now we have to equip our proto-team with methodology and engage it into process. It is business after all, and we just have to consider everything via perspective of business efficiency! We’ll be talking about it in our next installment on Small Units’ Tactic (that could be successful only if aligned with strong and sound strategy)