Obviously we are referring to teams that cooperate and produce outcomes, teams that hit their mark; teams that work. We are referring to consorts, to bands of partners and to associates bound within a vision. This kind of teamwork is of prominent importance. An obvious, maybe rhetorical and definitely self-evident thesis that all of us share. In this text lies a venture to inductively disseminate, support, analyze and qualitatively define the underlying mechanism and the intrinsic meaning behind and beyond the self-evident nature of this statement.
The goal of nature is abundance, whereas in business it is growth. These two concepts are different aspects of the same. Growth in business is an indicator of abundance, it is the tangible statement that we are doing things right and if this growth is sustainable, that we hold the one-way ticket to our organization’s permanence. There are many quantitative methods to regulate and scrutinize growth whereas it is one of the main anchors of notice with respect to financial analysis. At the same time corporate finance has appointed a discrete knowledge segment on sustainable growth. Greiner’s growth model, an effective qualitative instrument in managing said growth, the object of yet so many of our activities, analyzes six distinct phases that have to be monitored in order for an endeavor to grow and overcome respective crises and threats.
All phases contain constituents wherein teamwork is important, but in the last two they are an absolute prerequisite, as growth is defined within these two phases by the responsiveness of teamwork and they are coined as “growth through collaboration” and “growth through alliances”. If we should seek out growth for our organization’s survival, thence we can only imagine the importance of teamwork, for the latter is a sine qua non of growth. One of Peter Drucker’s most famous quotes is that in order to respond and perform in change we need joint performance through common goals and shared values, among other things. These shared values can be observed in the core of many successful management models, such as Mc Kinsey’s 7s framework: six separate elements orbit around the ever-important shared values that are our basic intangible fuel. For Geert Hofstede culture is the software of the world, and one of the major dimensions of culture is the track of individualism vs. collectivism. In the 70’s and 80’s American business was bent on finding out why Japanese operations are so successful, only to return with one definite and uncontested result: teamwork. When the world of business realized the necessity of departing from unequivocal Taylorist ideals and started to shift towards the human relations school, only a few main concepts were rooted in this change: those of employee involvement, synergies and socialization.
Again, the force of teamwork proved to provide the muscle for this evolution. Nowadays more than ever teamwork is considered as the main incentive vessel for employee commitment. Excellent firms hold a mechanism in place to promote group problem-solving and teamwork arrangements, whence the plurality of successful US firms is utilizing autonomous work teams to guide its everyday operations. Learning organizations with enviable core competencies and sustainable competitive advantages cannot come into being without a culture of sanctioning and promoting teamwork. As we can extract thus far, science has evolved to consider teams very important and successful business has put these ideas into practice. But maybe the scope is a bit broader. Maybe teamwork is important for life. Teamwork is about sharing (goals, workload, issues, all that is good and not so good, productive and counterproductive, functional and dysfunctional) and sharing is all about expression and truth: if we do not share our thoughts, ideas, emotions and efforts then they rest enclosed in the individual that is us, do not enter the sphere of the explicit and thus, are not incarnated into the real. Sharing is the first step and the gateway to materializing our inner self and by extension our dreams. Sharing effectively and communicating with good faith are the vessels towards true and individual expression in this world. If we are interested in life and not in mere survival, thence sharing will provide the passport.
So in this analytical approach we can already indicate an outstanding antithesis: in order to be individualistic and leave our personal mark in this world we need to share, we need our crew and we need to be players of a team. The argument above is further strengthened by the fact that human beings are nonetheless paradoxical creatures. We long to feel part of something bigger than us and at the same time that we alone are critical within a system. Teamwork provides the practical solution to this basic paradox of man. We should as well need to rewind a bit and go back, back to the why and the what. Talking about humans and teams, reference should be made to the titan of all teams, that of family. A family has clear roles, purpose and beyond that, is the basic distinction of the human species. Some million years ago in Hominids, a strange thing occurred. The female lost its estrus, or at least the same estrus that was shared with the rest of the mammals. Thus dawned the era of romantic love, whence a female is able to select her partner based on her personal wants and not due to the predicate of nature. At the same time man is able to provide for this basic unit of existence, his family and both mom and dad can be there for their child, to nurture and educate it for its life to come; through teamwork. This fact that is true up to and including the present day is the basic comparative advantage of the human species.
Without a doubt we can state that our existence and survival is owed to teamwork. So we can conclude that the thesis “teamwork is important” is an obvious understatement as it turns out, for teams are not only important in business; teams make up the reason for success in life. We may go so far as to state that teams are of such importance due to the fact that teamwork is a necessity clearly inscribed in our genome and materializes as one of our basic needs, equal to that of food and shelter. In a ship, we have an up to a fault (that is, for its totality lies isolated for a specific time frame) well-defined system. Within its hull there are individuals working and living towards a common purpose, that of the journey. Beyond its physical boundary, even in clear skies whence Aeolus and Poseidon are very merciful, lies the abyss. This within itself provides the manifestation of the distinction that governs the maritime industry (and is a fact that follows each maritime firm even within its brick and mortar installations and terrestrial activities); to return to our first point, if within these well-defined boundaries there not lies a family (with clear structure, size, roles and obligations but a family nonetheless), the journey and thus the mission will not proceed as streamlined.
The intricacies of this dynamic synergy strike a sensitive chord within us as they border on the ideal. Science and technology are able to provide the medium to further our understanding and to optimize nearly all constituents of our industries, but without grasping that humans are core and that teamwork is all that makes us human, any application will be sterile. Effectiveness cannot surface without the aid of a team and collectiveness. This is true for all industries, but does not hold the same weight for each and every one, for there are some human activities that teamwork comprises an essential catalyst for success. The ancient quote that unity makes strength is of distinguished fortitude whence reflecting the maritime industry.
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