Monday, June 28, 2010

Pages 26-78

After reading these pages, it is apparent Kathryn believes her team is unaware there are major problems within their organization. They are aware that there is friction within the executive team but they don't believe it is affecting the overall  momentum. Kathryn believes a poor debate environment, where team members don't really discuss issues, is also contributing to the problem.
Awareness of the problem, or problems, is the first step all organizations must take before becoming an effective team. In the book " Good to Great" Jim Collins refers to this as addressing the brutal facts of your reality. Lack of trust in each other hinders this process.
Kathryn attempts to increase their awareness by utilizing the retreat to Napa to discuss the absence of trust and invulnerability. Slowly, they begin to recognize that dysfunction not only exists but is having a negative impact on their progress as a company.
Inattention to results, status and ego are then discussed by the team. The most important quote of this section for me is from Kathryn as she states " there is a place for ego on a team but the key is to make the collective ego greater than the individual ones." These executives believed that if they met quotas and focused on profit the team would be successful and everything would continue status quo. Team members sometimes become immersed in their own little world  forgetting that if the team loses they lose. Kathryn is trying to help them believe in the big picture not just their snapshot but the whole album. She is challenging them to become part of something bigger and better, a team where all members are focused daily on the same goals and results.

Question - How does a poor debate environment contribute to the dysfunction of a team?


  1. Poor debate environment stiffles constructive debate. If team members are not willing to challenge one another, real growth is difficult at best. This dysfunction can be avoided by building trust among team members. Team members should be comfortable challenging one another and be mindful that these challenges should not be taken personally. They should be seen as efforts to make the overall team and organization stronger. Team meetings should be a time when all members have had an opportunity to voice concerns without "holding back". Only then can the team avoid a poor debate environment.

  2. I agree that trust is a HUGE issue among team members. Even with trust, the reality is that it is very difficult to challenge each other without it being defensive. I think we mentioned earlier that everything works out a little too smoothly in this book, but the point is well taken that we should hold each other accountable for doing the best job that we can without regard to our own personal agenda.

    Therefore, a poor debate environment creates a vicious cycle because people get bogged down in their own responsibilities and avoid collaborating with other team members. That in turn causes team members to isolate themselves even more.

  3. To me, another by-product of a poor debate environment is a potential to lack creativity or innovation. It would seem to me much more difficult for a team to consider innovative methods if there is not a healthy discussion on the topic. In this environment, someone would suggest a thought and either it would be blown out of the water with negative or critical force, or accepted without any resistance by the group. Either way this would not be a healthy way to make decisions, especially regarding "out of the box" ideas.

    I agree that one implication with a poor debate environment is isolation. However, how can we foster better debates among our administrative team, or among departments, or grade levels?

    As I mentioned after reading through some of the teachers surveys, I believe building trust within the school community, especially with teachers, is one of our most significant challenges. After reading through page 44, I would ask the question, "how do we demonstrate trust?"

  4. Great Responses !
    @John- I agree that when discussions occur about "issues" they should be seen as efforts to make the overall team and organization stronger. It's simple to take ego out of the equation when there's trust among team members.
    @Lynne- Holding each other accountable is certainly a function of a high achieving team and takes time for this to occur naturally. Collaboration is an integral part of any successful organization. The feeling of isolation between administrators or between teachers needs to be addressed whenever it occurs. We can teach with our doors closed but we have to be open to collaborate for the good of the team.
    @ Larry- We demonstrate trust by modeling the behavior on a daily basis. I heard this saying at a seminar many years ago, students need to know 3 things from a teacher.
    1. Will you be there to help me?
    2. Are you on my side?
    3. What's next?
    Our teachers need the same. Demonstrate empathy, support them, communicate with them and listen to them. Over time that will demonstrate trust and foster conversation.
    Have a great evening!

  5. It seems to me that the biggest problem we face is in trying to decide where to "call people to account" and when it is OK to let issues slide. For example, I think that the two mistakes we make most in school administrative staffs are being occasionally too open with our criticisms and occasionally criticizing when we do not need to do so.

    It has always been my opinion that the appropriate place to iron out issues is within an administrative staff meeting. We need to make certain that we present a united face to the faculty and the world at large. Disagreement in our staff meetings is a good thing and hashing out differences there is appropriate. But if we find ourselves disagreeing in public, it appears to the world at large as if there is a dysfunction in our organization and does us more harm than good.

    We also need to be careful that our disagreements deal specifically with issues that speak to mission. For example, if I hear people complain about the way John handles specific discipline problems, it would be appropriate for me to mention what I heard to him, but I do not believe that it is appropriate for this to become a topic of administrative discussion or of holding someone's feet to the fire. However if there were a rumor in the community that Tattnall had too lax a discipline policy that would speak to mission. It is the policy that should be addressed, not John's handling of it because the policy speaks to mission while individual interpretations of the policy usually do not.

  6. As with many things, a poor environment will in most cases contribute to poor results. When department leaders meet to solve organizational problems, it is important for the “debate environment” to be a good one. From the beginning, Kathryn recognizes how important this principle is. From a breakdown of her model, to the way she begins each of her meetings, I believe she is creating a positive and healthy environment for her department leaders to meet and discuss the challenges their company is facing.

    In looking at Kathryn’s model, I believe that all five areas can be viewed as a way to improve a meeting’s “debate environment”. Whether it is lack of trust, a personal agenda or ego, having low standards or any one of the five, avoiding one of the five areas can render a team dysfunctional. Many teams never get past the absence of trust or fear of conflict which will always insure a poor or one-sided debate with many team members not contributing to the solution.

    Teamwork: Ordinary people working together to accomplish extraordinary things.

    There is no I in TEAM.

    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

    We have all heard these sayings or similar ones. Debate is no different. When team leaders meet to discuss problems, egos and agendas must be checked at the door, and the entire team must trust each other without fear of conflict because input is required from all departments in order to reach the best decisions/solutions to problems facing the organization. A poor debate environment hinders this input thus preventing the best solutions to problems.

    Finally, I liked the way Kathryn would begin her meetings. “We have more money, better technology, more talented and experienced executives, and yet we’re behind our competitors. Let’s remember that the reason we’re here is to start working more effectively as a team.”

    I feel this is her way of practicing what she was preaching from her model. She lets her team know up front that she trusts them by telling them how talented and experience they are. She not afraid of conflict or accountability by letting them know where they stood in relation to their competitors, and she reminds them of their commitment and the results she is looking for by letting them know why they are there and what the goal is.

    Kathryn wanted a healthy environment so that her team could perform. Her model and approach creates that environment.

  7. I agree with the above posts. Trust is core issue. Parents must be confident that they will receive a solid return on their investment. We must all ensure that they have that level of confidence in all of our respective areas. Parents must realize that we recognize how important their partnership is with us. There should be a trust among all constituents (students, parents, and faculty).

    I think the recent administrative changes have been good for our school. We have examined many issues and are seeking constant improvement. I think we have the makings of a strong administrative team.

  8. Since we all seem to agree that trust is a critical piece in becoming a stronger organization, I would like for us to consider ways we can create a deeper level of trust. I think we should discuss how we can extend trust to students, parents, teachers, and members in the community.