Two-Million Dysfunctions of Working Alone

I overheard a conversation the other day that got me thinking about why teams have become so important to modern work. Here is the conversation:

Airport bookstore shopper #1: “Hmm … The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. That sounds interesting.”

Airport bookstore shopper #2: “I should write a book and call it, The Two-Million Dysfunctions of Working Alone.”

Shopper #2 reflects what many of us have learned the hard way, that teamwork is better than the alternative. In fact, it would be dysfunctional to approach many business tasks any in other way.

However, because teamwork presents a number of challenges, working alone can be highly seductive. How much simpler and quicker it seems, at times, to send out that proposal without waiting for all team members to weigh in? After all, the client was getting antsy and you have written hundreds of proposals before just like this one. Yet how dysfunction does it become when your team reports that it cannot possibly deliver on all the promises, and you realize they are right because you never gave them the chance to communicate certain critical information?

We work in teams because they make us more productive and efficient, and help to improve the quality of our products. Even those who do not work on teams or with a business partner often gain some of the benefits of teamwork by discussing our ideas with others and by seeking their review and feedback. The next time circumstances arise that make you consider moving forward solo, try to remember the many dysfunctions of trying to go it alone, and the benefits of teamwork.

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