A supposed expert on team organisation meets a lie detector - and gets caught! Maybe he doesn't even believe in what he preaches himself? We identify the 5 biggest lies about team organisation and help to unravel them - for the joy of work! 💜
The supposed organisational expert in interrogation room 1
It is an unusually quiet day in the "joy of work" hub of awork. Something is going on in the large meeting room. There is a big sign on the door: "Interrogation room 1, please do not disturb". The otherwise invitingly bright and cosy room is suddenly dark, cool and unusually empty. Only a large, long table stands in the middle of the room, with a chair at each end.
Someone is already sitting in one of them, nervously wiggling one leg. Tom Oxic is just undoing the top button of his jacket when suddenly someone comes in the door; a strange device in his hand. Immediately behind comes a young woman. She is wearing a white shirt with an awork logo and greets him: "Hello Tom, thank you for your time. I am aware that your schedule as team leader is bursting at the seams," she says and sets up the mysterious device at the other end of the table with her colleague.
Why is he here today? Tom Oxic positions himself clearly: I am the expert on team organisation! Time and again he appears in public and reports on how well the organisation in his team is running. After all, his book "The Truth about Team Leadership" also opened the door for him to his current position as team leader in a respected company.
But an anonymous email from his team made us wonder: apparently everything is not as rosy as Tom portrays it to the outside world. So, as the advocates for "the joy of work", we feel it is our duty to get to the bottom of it all! And what better way to do that than with a lie detector test! The device is in place and Tom is wired up, so let's go! 📈
Lie 1: "Team leads should control everything".
We start directly with an important part of the team organisation and want to know from Tom what constitutes a good structure in the team for him and above all: how he sees his own role as a team leader in this context.
🤥 He has a very clear answer to this: "A team leader should definitely be involved everywhere!"
🚨 A shrill sound is heard and the recorder makes high waves. The detector has unmasked a lie!
We get suspicious and want to know from Tom why he claims this when it is obviously a lie. After all, this statement is also part of his book. After a few attempts at evasion, Tom finally buckles and tells us where the urge to control everything comes from.
There is simply no transparent overview. There are hardly any structures in his team that show who is working on what at any given time and what this work pays off in the end. The area of responsibility of each team member is not defined. No wonder Tom looks into a dense fog of team organisation and develops trust issues.
What Tom can improve in his team:
✅ Define areas of ownership: Throughout the team, it should be clear who is responsible for what and how this work contributes to the company's goals. For example, Tom can set clear KPIs for each role with his team members. This way the team can measure their efforts and adjust if necessary.
✅ Become a sparring partner: Instead of prescribing or controlling things from above, Tom could offer himself as a sparring partner. Regular 1:1 meetings in which he discusses current issues with his team members (and actively listens) and offers feedback are suitable for this. In this way, he also creates a space where progress and current hurdles can be discussed.
✅ Making workload visible with time tracking: Since Tom's team is project-based and hybrid, time tracking can also provide a better overview. Of course, it should not be exploited as a control tool, but should show exactly what is being worked on in the team and make the workload transparent. In this way, time tracking is much more than just a service provider for accounting.
Lie 2: "Documentation? Waste of time!"
Moving on to Interrogation Room 1, Tom Oxic is taking off his jacket and fanning himself a bit, "Warm in here, isn't it?" - but we are far from done with our polygraph test! Next we want to know how Tom and his team share and document their knowledge.
🤥"We don't need documentation, it's a waste of time," he claims.
🚨The shrill noise sounds again and the recorder flips into high-pitched waves again. The detector has unmasked another lie!
Again, we want to know from Tom - by now visibly annoyed that we have caught him - why he wants to tell us a lie. This time he comes to his senses a little quicker.
Tom always notices clearly how a lack of documentation hinders his team's work - and his own. This is a real brake on good team organisation. Time and again, important information is missing, especially when a team member is absent. Sometimes entire projects come to a standstill for this time.
Hybrid work in particular becomes a test of patience. In addition, the team is constantly dependent on meetings in which they spend a lot of valuable time - just to keep up to date.
What Tom can improve in his team:
✅ Record project progress: Projects should be clearly comprehensible and transparent for everyone at all times. If someone drops out, someone else can quickly take care of it - after all, the necessary information and progress are available. How? With a project management tool, of course! (awork is our insider tip here 😉)
✅ Create order: Everything that Tom's team needs and needs to know for general work should be collected in one place. At awork, we use Notion for our knowledge sharing to document our processes and info that is not part of the "daily doing". This way we keep everyone up to date and don't have to rely on the "one person who knows everything". In our hybrid and fast-growing team, an absolute must-have!
✅ Transparency up, meetings down: With the right documentation structures in place, Tom's team can scrap many of their meetings and keep up to date asynchronously. This works great with Zoom Clips or Looms. Recorded quickly, the videos can be distributed to everyone who needs them or stored directly in the global documentation. Tedious typing? History!
Lie 3: "Capacity planning? It's easy-peasy!"
We continue to look closely at the lie detector, while we now want to know from Tom how his team plans capacities and how they overcome challenges.
🤥 Tom looks at us puzzled: "Planning capacities? That's kid's stuff! Why would we have challenges here?"
🚨And again the lie detector goes off and catches Tom in a lie! The shrill sound is slowly becoming a habit.
Sighing but insightful, Tom buckles here too, revealing to us that he and his team rarely plan their capacities at all. Planning simply takes a lot of time and is then thrown out again by spontaneous changes. And: the planning almost never matches the real workload. Most of the time, the team works overtime after overtime.
What Tom can improve in his team:
✅ Make the true workload visible: Before Tom's team can even think about new projects, they need to know exactly how much capacity they have available. The easiest way for them to visualise the workload is through a visual representation of who is working on what and how much time they are spending. The most important thing is to show the real workload, i.e. minus all meetings etc. The easiest way to do this is with calendar integration. The right tool (only awork offers this integration 😉 ) can be a game changer here!
✅ Plan realistically: All the planning is useless if it is not done realistically. This also includes limits! If the team is overbooked, it cannot start a new project. This also includes projects that will only start in the future but are already being planned. A corresponding visualisation shows exactly who still has free capacity. If the answer is "no one", Tom must consider whether to change priorities or bring more team members on board.
✅ Don't strive for perfection: Even if you can get close, there is no such thing as perfect kapa planning. Therefore, the team should not get too cerebral about planning their capacities, as long as they stick to the basic rules. Because even the best planning can be thwarted by unforeseen events - unless Tom has a crystal ball hidden in his jacket. 🔮
[.b-related-article] Getting curious? We show you 6 concrete scenarios that can go wrong in capacity planning and how you can prevent them! [.b-related-article]
Lie 4: "Feedback is optional, not a must!"
Visibly willing to stand firm, Tom signals to us that he is ready for the next question. This time we are interested in the topic of feedback and would like to know how it is practised in his team.
🤥"For me, it's simply a waste of time. Feedback is optional, but not a must!"
🚨As if everyone in the room had already expected it, the shrill sound is heard again this time while the polygraph does its little dance with the clerk, which can only mean one thing: It's a lie!
With his head down, Tom explains that he has actually heard from his team several times that they would like more feedback. But since he is always involved in everything and is already working overtime, he has no time for it. The result? The demotivation and bad mood in the team is clearly noticeable. He has already lost two team members.
What Tom can improve in his team:
✅ Create a feedback culture: Feedback has a big impact on team happiness - which is also part of a well-functioning team organisation. To create a culture around it, feedback must be integrated into all company processes in a binding way - no matter in which (hierarchical) direction. This allows everyone to work together more harmoniously and to grow in their personal development.
✅ Introduce the principle of the 4 A's: An example of these rules are the 4 A's, two of which apply on the receiver side and two on the feedback-giver side.
👉Aim to assist | Giving feedback: Feedback should have a positive intention that helps the other person.
👉Actionable | Giving feedback: The feedback should have a clear focus and a suggestion that the other person can implement.
👉Appreciate | Receive Feedback: Feedback received should always be gratefully accepted.
👉Accept or Discard | Receive Feedback: It is up to the recipient to decide whether or not to accept the feedback.
✅ Giving Kudos: Sometimes, a few kind words can do so much good! And since team happiness is a very high priority at awork, they are as much a part of our routine as chips are to ketchup. Every Friday is "Kudos Friday" in our Slack, thanks to the plug-in "Matter" - something we can also recommend to Tom and his team.
Lie 5: "The team doesn't need direction"
One last time, we want to drill down on Tom and ask him what the goal setting looks like in his team and what the common alignment to the global business goals looks like - and how they maintain it.
🤥 "It goes without saying what our company goal is! My team doesn't need any direction from me!"
🚨 As if everyone had suspected it, the lie detector again exposes an outright lie.
Tom realises that his team keeps getting to the point where the "why" becomes unclear and motivation drops significantly. Every single team member does not understand how their work contributes to the company's goals - and what value their work has at the end of the day.
What Tom can improve in his team:
✅ Putting the "why" at the centre: Yes, the word "purpose" has become a common (un)word, but we believe: wrongly! The "why" is and remains the central driver of the sense of purpose at work. And even if Tom thinks it is self-evident: as a rule it is not. It needs to be repeated and kept present in the day-to-day.
✅ Tie team goals to company goals: Tom's team should derive their own goal from the overarching company goals. In this way they strengthen the team feeling and see exactly what impact their team work has.
✅ Define goals for each team member: Of course, you can break the whole thing down even further and set precise goals for each team member in a manageable period of time. These individual mini-goals move the whole team forward piece by piece and each team member knows exactly what impact their own work has. This also applies to project work! Here, Tom should make sure to establish the reference directly in the briefings.
✅ Hold regular check-ins: So that the team doesn't lose sight of their direction, they can regularly update themselves on the current status and thus also take a close look at where things might need to be adjusted. Because here, too, planning is great, but the unexpected can always happen (we still don't know if Tom has a crystal ball).
The insight: rethinking team organisation
Tom has finally done it, the polygraph test is over! As we remove the cables and carefully pack the device back together, Tom confesses to us:
"I wrote my book when I was very young. I read a lot about corporate leadership and thought that was how the world worked. But unfortunately, much of it was already outdated - but my book made waves. And suddenly I became a team leader myself and had to realise: Reality is very different! But I had to keep up appearances..."
The anonymous mail from Tom's team showed that his way so far does not work - nor does it produce a happy team. Still: We would not have expected so much insight in the end. He accepts our suggestions with thanks. That is why we are sure that we will now send Tom back as a better team leader. Our mission as "the joy of work" advocates: accomplished! ✅