I’m 13 months into a 24-month organization development process. I made the mistake of underestimating where the team is, how much they have already done, & the amount of power I have over their work.

A challenge with organization team development is the long loose view of the structure that operates paradoxically with the desire to supply teams with systems, processes & tools to complete their work keeping the team active.

It is a project management (mechanical) or evolutionary (organical) tension. This tension is a part of the work.

This can be frustrating to clients + me when we have to get work done.

Working out the agenda for a monthly update meeting I was determined to hold their feet to the fire for not sending update reports on their team projects. I called the CEO & COO to let them know my frustration, concern, ideas to get this process back on track.

The agenda was sent with a to the point message of “Come prepared to share your updates. Everyone will be held to account for their work.”

The meeting started … I was quickly reminded that for the past 13 months the team has been progressing. This became evident immediately when the project leaders were asked to update on their progress. One after another they had data, graphs, customer/consumer feedback, management analysis & other great things. As each person shared new ideas & shared work became evident.

I asked, “What’s been the issue with sending me updates?”

The response, “Mike, we’re doing our work. We feel the between meeting updates are not necessary. What we are gathering, changing & doing changes every time we try to capture it. As we try to share updates … the information of what we are doing changes by the time we see you. What we are doing is dynamic. These meetings when we all share in a discussion is what works best for our team. Can we share updates here?”

I agreed.

“… yet the success of obliquity remains paradoxical. Surly you must do better if you intend to achieve something than if you don’t? The metaphor of the blind watchmaker illustrates that the answer to that question is often no. If the environment is uncertain, imperfectly understood and constantly changing, the product of a process of adaptation and evolution may be better adapted to that environment than the product of conscious design. It generally will be. “ – John Kay Obliquity pg 153

How does this matter to teams, team leaders and the organizations they support?
  1. You don’t have to see your view of progress for progress to happen
  2. The tension between freedom & constraint needs to be tended too carefully. Too much or too little constraint & trust is repelled; Freedom with unknown boundaries causes great people to work on things that may not move the company forward.
  3. Find how the team best shares updates – the team knows how to do their work better than the team leader.
  4. The time for exceptions (or what you see as waste) leads to breakthrough ideas that may not have survived or even happened if the team is asked to report consistently in a way they do not find useful.
  5. Managers / Team Leaders only have an illusion of control over the team members & work.
  6. Acknowledging then finding ways to work with the team will get everyone to the goal while keeping the team happy & stable.