The Cajun Navy vs. Pseudo-Teams

Posted by jlubans on November 07, 2012

Much is made, even by me, of the trigonometry of organizations. There’s the S-shaped curve that describes an organization’s first faltering steps and (if it survives) progression to maturity and eventual decrepitude or reinvention.
A similar curve describes teams and their potential development into highly effective teams. This curve exposes the pseudo-teams that do not do much of anything, never rising out of its nadir. I have been part of many pseudo-teams, at work and in professional organizations. Have you? One definition pretty much sums it up: "In Pseudo-Teams, the sum of the whole is less than the the potential of the individual parts."
And, then there’s the same sigmoid curve to display Tuckman’s
theory of group development, showing the developmental steps of most groups, informal and formal.
All the curves require time and trust for a group to gel and be productive.

Rarely do groups, teams or organizations take a rocket-like trajectory, (above) but it can happen in extreme crisis. Such volunteer, impromptu groups burst forth full-grown, it seems, accelerating in a straight line through the S-shaped curve. If there is any Storming and Norming it happens along the way; after all the urgent goal is to perform, to do something!

Caption: In the flood is Senator Nick Gautreaux (in green cap) a leader of one of the flotillas in the all-volunteer “Cajun Navy.”
For example, during the New Orleans hurricane, private boat owners in Louisiana banded together into search and rescue teams, the “Cajun Navy,” with minimal official supervision. (I plan to write some more, in the near future, about this spontaneous civilian navy that rescued many stranded people and pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.)
I expect similar, cooperative groups have spontaneously developed in NJ/NY to help neighbors and neighborhoods recover from last week’s floods, winds and power outages.
Several years ago an ice storm in North Carolina, where I live, took out power for hundreds of thousands for a week or more. Downed trees blocked streets and created havoc for rescue vehicles. Neighbors helped neighbors cope with the destruction.
Not long after a return to normal, I attended a leadership conference in Durham. One of the handouts was “The Positive Side of Disasters”. As I recall, it was distributed by a speaker who had worked with public utility companies and subcontractors in bringing power back to hundred of North Carolina communities. I use the handout when teaching about teamwork because it explains, in stripped down terms, how humans can and will cooperate and help each other – teams actually work and get stuff done, often more effectively than waiting for formal groups to intervene. The handout helps explain how a group can hit the ground running and not stop until the job is done:
Immediate clarity of purpose
No time wasted on trivial
Camaraderie; everyone’s a hero
No manuals-of-procedure
Wide-open communication
No post-poned decisions
Work with available resources
Leadership is widely distributed
Formal leaders easily take on effective follower roles; they do whatever they have to do
No risk - “It’s already a disaster!”

« Prev itemNext item »


No comments yet. You can be the first!

Leave comment