Sunday, October 30, 2011

What is a Perpetual Team?

Do you recall hearing of “perpetual motion” or “perpetual motion machines”?
Perpetual Motion generally refers to any closed system that produces more energy than it consumes.
When the industrial age was in it’s infancy, several inventors attempted to create “perpetual motion machines”—devices that completely eliminated friction and maintain motion forever through mass inertia.
It was an interesting idea, but unfortunately, the laws of physics made their success impossible.
However—lucky for us—the laws of physics have no effect on the creation of Perpetual Teams.
Think of your team as a machine, where each member is a moving part, constantly pushing the other moving parts forward. As long as each part continues to push the other forward, the whole of the parts will produce more energy than was consumed.
If each team member is constantly pushing the other towards a goal—routinely asking: what can we do to deliver better, faster—then two or more heads will not only be better than one. They will be better than teams triple their size.
Of course, there is one caveat…
When one of those parts stops working, that part must be replaced, before the corrosion contaminates the other parts.
I know that sounds harsh, but it is a reality.
To believe anything else is to fool yourself and damage the morale—and the throughput—of your team.
This is not to say that a part cannot be repaired. The team itself should work to oil and adjust its parts to keep them from failing, and the mechanic—the manager—shouldn't be called until such repairs are beyond the abilities of the team.
Everything starts with a truly motivated, self-managed team.
Successful teams lead themselves, and within each team, there are strong members that will push for improvements.
However, those leaders must not be allowed to dominate, as one persons improvement is often another persons impediment.
You must have strong leaders that counter other strong leaders, ensuring the team is always moving forward and weighing options based on everyone's input, in order to find the optimal solutions to all problems.
Any who sees a problem with current processes should lead the team to improve it, just as they would any other problem.
If a member cannot identify a problem with current processes, it is that member's responsibility to support those processes—continuing to move forward and to push other members to move forward.
Those old tried-and-true words of Thomas Paine are still alive and well today: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" of those who are trying to improve and/or support the team.
Yea, I know what you are thinking—and you are wrong.
There is nothing negative about this perspective for two simple reasons:
  • REASON ONE: The process is a fair one. Everyone has the opportunity to support the team as is or help change the team and its processes for the better. Finding a team where you are a better fit is truly a last resort.
  • REASON TWO: The process has proven time and time again that it works!
Here’s something else to keep in mind. If you can build one Perpetual Team, you can build many. Just as one member can push another member forward, one team can push another team forward—creating a Perpetual Organization—an organization that produces five times more than it consumes.
You’ve heard consultants babble on about company’s crossing the chasm from good to great? The only way you’ll really do that is with Perpetual Teams.

No comments: