There is no “Accident” in Team

There is no “Accident” in Team

Okay, I can hear the groans.

It should be “There is no i in Team”. At least until some smarty pants shows up with the poster that shows exactly where the “i” is.

In this case, the word accident and team cannot stand together.

Teams must be intentional or they cannot exist in nature. Without the structure and effort to build a team, the best you can hope for is a “group”.

I was not involved in organized sports as a kid. I really wasn’t big enough or fast enough to keep up with the boys that played on my schools teams so I missed some of that part of my life learning. I more than made up for it the summer I went to Navy Boot Camp.

The system for developing the individuals is pretty straight forward. First, you have the raw material. Young people who came from the widest variety of backgrounds you could imagine. Once you step foot inside the camp however, no background means all that much. Even if you were born filthy rich, there is no place to spend it as you are sequestered inside where there are no real stores or conveniences. All the trappings of life are gone. You are issued a standard set of uniforms and told when to wear which versions to wear.

There are no artificial distractors. Gone is the freedom of playing electronic games until three in the morning and sleeping until noon. There are plenty of people around to help remind you that like the uniform you wear, your behavior must meet a minimum standard. Your hair will be a fashionably short length and your cleanliness will be assured by the leaders and your bunkmates. You will learn to march, speak when spoken to (with no attitude) and eat when the opportunity is given. No snacking either.

All this sounds like prison in some ways. But the intent is to break them and prepare them to be a part of the team that is about to be built. There is nothing accidental about any of this. Every step along the way has been well thought out and planned. Everything is measured. By the time the boot camp is finished, the people in the company are all operating as a true team.

Understanding the difference between groups and teams:

All organizations are composed of groups. But not all groups are teams

All organizations have two kinds of groups; formal and informal

Formal Groups

  • Normally structured
  • These groups have leaders and followers
  • Leaders usually have titles
  • There is usually a specific focus for the group
  • We all are part of many groups … family, work, government, church, recreation, etc.
  • Why do people become a part of a group?
  • Are all groups successful?  Why?

Informal Group

  • has little or no structure
  • may consist of several small groups
  • may or may not have a leader
  • may or may not have a focus
  • can have a very strong influence

Groups versus Teams

  • G = Individuals work independently – sometimes at cross-purposes
  • G = Members are not involved in planning
  • G = Suggestions are not encouraged
  • G = Members do not trust the motives of others
  • G = Game playing occurs; members are cautious about what they say
  • G = Members may be limited in applying their skills
  • G = Individuals cannot resolve conflict situations
  • G = Conformity is more important than results


  • T= Members are focused on team goals and support
  • T= Members have ownership because of planning
  • T= Members are actively involved in decisions
  • T= Members work in a climate of trust; questions are welcomed
  • T= Members practice open and honest communication
  • T= Members are encouraged to develop and use skills
  • T= Members use collective skills to solve problems
  • T= Members participate in decisions – results are every ones’ goal

Why is a successful team concept so difficult to implement?

  • We have been programmed from the first grade to apply teamwork to sports and organized recreation
  • Learning and accomplishing tasks is an individual activity
  • The reward systems are based on individual work (performance evaluation, merit raises, promotions, union/management issues, etc.)
  • The organizational structure is not built to make teams effective

The most common team building approach is based on the four stage model of

Form Storm Norm and Perform

These are the stages the team will go through as it builds. But if the group does not go through an intentional process of formation, it will rarely get to the point of efficiency. You see, groups are all around us. But with no real leadership, they will never be as efficient as they would if they went through the team building process.


To build a team, the people who are assigned or assume leadership must intentionally take the steps to develop the group into a team. I was blessed to observe this a number of times in the submarine force. An outstanding leadership team is worth its weight in gold. While the purest forms of teams require a sense of democracy, the Navy uses a form of interdependent teams to achieve the same goal. The engineering department is reliant on the navigations department which is reliant on the whole operations team and support teams. No one goes anywhere alone. Operating in a well-choreographed team is the only way the submarine can be successful.

While I saw some elements of this in the surface Navy, the submarine community has to develop that cohesiveness in a way that is polished like a fine diamond. The difference between survival and sudden death is all too real. The oldest saying in the books is that we all dive together but we all come to the surface together. Or we don’t. The month of April is a stark reminder of how that comes home to every submariner.

No, building a team is not accidental. If you examine your group and know that no process has been applied, you should think about how much more efficient you could be with the implementation of a team building process. I always ask the same questions when I work with groups: what are your measurements for success? How much time is spent on conflict resolution? Does everyone have the same work ethics? Can you trust each other when the times get tough?

The answers to these and many other questions will determine where you are as a group. Or a Team.

Mister Mac



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