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"The Whole is Greater than the sum of its Parts"​

During a Tribe Buddy Group call, a dear confidante shared a pearl of wisdom as he is often known to do. Usually it is something his Gran imparted on him, but last week it was “A boss once said, ‘when you work together you create a third person who is better than both of you.’” This line struck a chord with me, as when I am bringing together people to deliver transformational programmes, if we get the culture right, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I believe it was Aristotle who said this.

To create a strong workplace culture, it is important that this statement is at front of mind when you are working with your teams. This concept instils fear in the heart of every control freak, every egomaniac, everyone who believes it is down to individual performance. However, when every single player has a stake in the game and are all important to the end result, the results go through the roof. Back when I was in Finance, I worked for an organisation that effectively said Sales were the single most important cog or something to that effect.

I realised that was a very short-sighted statement because every person plays their part in the journey from stranger to deal won/contract renewed through to product/service delivered. It was also a year that because of the Finance support they had the greatest margins and bottom line, which meant more bonus… just saying! This was because everyone could focus on their job but still be part of the greater whole.

When a team or an organisation truly recognises that the whole needs to be greater than the sum of its individual parts, it can become a fine ballet or symphony, playing seamlessly together, delighting customers and working in true workplace synchronicity and joy. Everyone can feel their importance, their contribution to the customer journey and the organisation. That feeling of empowerment through knowledge and connection to a journey will be powerful for all team members. On a basic human level, that feeling of belonging and being part of something that is bigger than you is, well, EPIC!

How do you do this, I hear you asking???

These are some of the key elements I work with when creating strong teams and inspirational and empowered cultures.

Common Goals, Objectives & Success Factors:

What are you all striving for? Why are you on this adventure as a collective? If you don’t have that common goal, silos will stay siloed! As it is England vs Germany while I write this, I will use a football analogy: when a football team goes out to play a game their single goal is to win the game. They know they cannot do it if they do not work together and play each of their strengths for the common good. But if they went out on the pitch (that’s what it’s called, right?) and each of them had a different goal or success factor then chaos would ensue! If each player goes out for their individual self, the game would never be won; there would just be more men falling over the pitch pretending to have hurt something!

Identify the goals, the objectives and what defines success together so you can all strive for it as a whole, playing your strengths.

Common Language:

Are we all using the same terminology? Does it mean the same thing to each of us? I work with a lot of tech people, and I love those crazy techies, don’t get me wrong, but they know if they start speaking 1’s and 0’s at me, a little monkey starts dancing in my head (picture Homer Simpson here). In the same way if I speak finance at some people their eyes glaze over and they go to a far-off wonderland. Use your words! Use common business language, because when you do that you are also learning from each other. It also means it is harder to misinterpret what is being said, what will be delivered, and what the potential risks are, so you are ultimately safe from Purple, Monkey, Dishwasher syndrome. In recent years I have worked with tech teams who have sat amongst the business teams and listened to customer service calls, who have listened to sales calls. When they did this they started to understand that all the technical development they created reached these random people in the ether outside their 1’s and 0’s world, where the users had faces and names. Their ability to create better solutions through understanding a customer’s point of view and some common language with colleagues meant a hell of lot less testing and rework! This saved time and money!

Common Ways of Working:

It’s not a secret that I’m an Agile methodology kinda woman. It gives framework, rituals, sets expectations. Everyone from all disciplines understands what is expected of them, when and how. When you all work in the same way it is easier to collaborate, and everyone understands what their role in the collaboration is and any impacts to specific areas. You uncover risks and issues more quickly saving time, energy, money and rework. Through common ways of working it is easier to find the critical paths. It is also easier to achieve success when you all work in the same way within the same frameworks, and your messaging to each other or to customers is the same. Communication becomes seamless when you have the right frameworks and rituals in place.

Common Ways of Communication:

Whilst it can sit under common ways of working and should have a subcategory there, I wanted to call it out on its own. Communication is the single biggest challenge EVERYWHERE (work and home). Pick a communication medium and stick to it!

I have worked with groups who have selected their tools and stuck to them, which meant emails went down and more time was spent actually just working and getting the job done! Ban email unless it is on a wider level as honestly it is just a time drain! Use things like Microsoft Teams or Google Drive as a place to store all your common documents. This way everyone can find them! Pick up the phone, stop by someone’s desk (when we’re allowed back in offices), do a quick impromptu video call and get the question answered. Use your CRM as a single point of information for everything relating to your customers. Use your Agile rituals as key communication spaces! Pick your mediums, set the rules and stick to it.

It's not easy creating the “whole” – it takes time, energy and care – but when you work your way through the group development stages of forming, storming, norming, by the time you get to performing you have created something special. In my experience, it encourages people to go the extra mile, there is more loyalty, there are more creative innovations to make things happen, but most importantly the growth of individuals and as a result of the “whole” becomes even more powerful.

As always if you need some thought-partnering on culture and change and how to create the synchronicity and work ballet, reach out. I am always happy to inspire and empower you to joyful work spaces!


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