Happy Families?

Evolving Team Structures.

Take a look on any social media feed and you’ll find loads of posts on how to increase the effectiveness of any team in a ‘volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world’. Well, here at Endor, we always look to identify simple and straightforward solutions to enhance the performance of people.

While it’s widely acknowledged that people thrive in environments that allow them to work with others, there’s no doubt that the way we interact with each other at work is now changing. Halogen (2016) for example, noted that 57% of employees report an increase in the number of co-workers they work with in other geographic locations. Virtual teams, short term project groups and networked home-working all present their own challenges. At the same time Millennial’s and Generation Z’s have both been brought up expecting to learn more collaboratively and respond better to collaborative forms of leadership. Even the notion of what it means to be a team player is changing and as a result, many academics and management consultancies are investing in the creation of elaborate new models and work systems to respond to these developments. However, last month I stumbled across a well-worn copy of a 25 year old book which got me thinking...

The book was Families and How to Survive Them (1993) by Robin Skynner and John Cleese (yes, that John Cleese). Essentially it’s a book about managing interpersonal relationships and it wasn’t until I’d finished it that I started to think that some of the 25 year-old content about helping families move forward, might still be useful in other group situations. Sure some of the theories contained in the book are now a bit dated and some of them clearly out of place in today’s more liberal society, but what struck me was how relevant certain aspects of the book were in terms of advice for developing collaborative effort. Now comparing teams to family groups has been done many times before and is likely to come across as a bit hackneyed – agreed, however just focusing on the practical advice about how to maintain a healthy family unit, capable of responding to change; provided lots of useful insights which could be relevant to many social groups – both in and out of work.

In the book, Cleese and Skynner highlighted three characteristics of what they call healthy family groups. Firstly they noticed that in the best performing families, the parents always facilitated high amounts of consultation with their children, they listened and encouraged debate but ultimately didn’t steer away from making uncomfortable decisions when necessary. The authors observed that in situations where decisions made by the parents were unpopular, their children still tended to respect their final say. Secondly in these effective family groups, there were never any taboo subjects or secrets. Communication was consistently open and unguarded - leading to a much clearer understanding of each other and the wider family objectives. Finally all of the healthy families they identified demonstrated a high level of respect for each other’s individuality and allowed members a high degree of personal autonomy, providing a platform for long term progress.

Perhaps, in looking for far-reaching solutions to evolving team structures; some of the answers may well lie, extremely close to home? 

Posted On: 14 May 2017