Teams help move thinking closer to doing

Mishkin Berteig at Agile Advice offers an insightful post about the separation of “thinking” and “doing.” The basic concept is that the design of processes (thinking) is sometimes far removed from the actual use of those processes (doing). In many situations, the people who think are not the same people as those who do.

The greater the separation between thinking and doing, the longer it takes for practical feedback (lessons learned from doing) to get integrated into revised processes. Separation is most pronounced in large bureaucratic organizations, and is minimal for endeavors undertaken by individuals.

Mishkin’s description suggests that teams can provide the best setting for bringing together thinking and doing, especially for the many business projects that are too big for an individual.

The team works closely together so that thinking and doing is separated at most by trusted high-bandwidth low-latency communications such as a few people working together at a whiteboard, or two people working at a computer together. All the members of the team have equal participation in the thinking/doing loop.

Again, it is possible for a team to get into the “zone” and become a high-performing or “real” team. People on teams like this often cant remember who thought of what great idea or who executed some particularly amazing piece of work. Individuals offer their best talents, skills, experiences and are receptive to the offerings of the other team members.

Feedback loops become unwieldy when the “thinkers” who are concentrated at the top of the org chart are responsible for determining the processes to be used by the “doers” dispersed across the bottom of the org chart.

I suggest that by providing teams with the latitude and authority to determine most of their own processes, organizations that embrace teamwork can move thinking closer to doing. This will, in turn, shorten the feedback loop and allow process revisions to be both quicker and more effective, because the decision makers (team members) will base their thinking on their experiences in doing.

Take a look at Mishkin’s entire post, Thinking/Doing Loops.

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2 Responses to Teams help move thinking closer to doing

  1. Dave Sovde says:

    Wow, spot on insights and perspectives! Employees support what they help create, often with great passion. It is really about having a communication system (corporate, frontline) that, for a variety of reasons, gets everyone to buy into doing their part in creating a great team. And then getting them talking every day, day after day, one by one, about improving themselves, the team, and the company.

  2. Dave, As you point out, gaining the buy-in of team members is essential. Buy-in comes so much easier when the team has lots of input into process decisions.

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