FIFA 2010 South Africa – insights into approaches to effective team working

May 25, 2009 : General Team Building

Team Development Developing Teams

“Work smarter, not harder”.

This is the mantra these days to survive the business climate and be well-positioned for the upturn. Often, senior management teams think of structural solutions, but these are expensive and the impacts take a long time to be realised. In the meantime, the pain of change adds to lowering morale and productivity of staff.   So what can be done that’s quicker and is more cost-effective ?

How much time and effort is wasted in your organisation because the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, or worse still, disagrees with it? What percentage of productivity improvement could you get through better teamwork and facilitation of key moments of dialogue, and how quickly and cheaply could you get it?   Certainly, lasting change can be delivered in months not years, with costs that cover themselves by the time any structural change kicks in. These results also offset the pain of other concurrent changes, reassuring staff that they are being invested in. However, for many managers and internal consultants it’s difficult to know how to intervene.

I was in Cape Town recently and spent half a day at the stadium being constructed for the 2010 World Cup.  This is the first time that Africa has hosted such a world sporting event and South Africa is acutely aware of the pressure, not least to show what Africa as a people is capable of, when all that Europe seem to hear coming out of it is about corruption, civil war and nepotism – the main causes of the more human tragedies there. The project is truly multinational with sub-contractors from all over the world, contributing for example the hi-tech outer skin, roof and the IT, but with South Africans firmly in control. There are multiple customers sometimes with competing interests – Cape Town City Council, FIFA and Stade de France who will manage the legacy. There is also an immovable ‘delivery’ date – the games WILL take place from next June 11th.  No pressure then!

Talking to senior project managers, a number of good teamworking behaviours were evident that, while nothing new, are contributing to the project being on time and with a lot to tell us about cost management.  I believe these less tangible factors can apply to any team and could be highly cost-effective:

  • Share information. This is crucial when expertise and components are coming together from all over the world. So often in our teams’ knowledge is power, especially where there is an ‘us and them’ dynamic and this is highly dysfunctional. In Cape Town, it’s the openness that ensures the engagement of all.  In my experience, organisations boost their productivity significantly through effective role-modelling in this area. Tools such as Maximillion’s Kinetic Connections make these points well.
  • Keep a sense of perspective.  It can be difficult to remember we’re on the same side, with the same goals.  Conflict is inevitable and I believe some conflict is healthy, so when an impasse is reached, step back and step up for a different view. Even little things like taking a coffee break give people time to reflect. Having a facilitator run the process will leave you free to focus on the content, or on a larger scale, team development events are a powerful way of creating new perspectives on a team’s goals and performance.
  • Keep it human.  There may be battles in the many construction and finance meetings, but senior managers work to understand each other as people outside the confrontations that occur in all projects. Whatever you think of Gordon Brown, he was genuinely touched by David Cameron’s recent personal misfortune and was not afraid to show it. Team performance tools can help us understand how each of us ticks.
  • Keep a sense of humour.  “A well-developed sense of humour is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” I saw several examples of how managers used humour to ‘keep it human’ and to joke about their past and forthcoming difficulties. Some of it was almost gallows humour, but all the better for it. My favourite cartoonist is Dilbert, who is excellent at reminding us how silly some of our work behaviour can be in the larger scheme of things – I always keep one or two relevant cartoons visible at my desk, changing them as my work changes.

Today as I write, at a UEFA press conference there was “high praise… for South Africa’s progress” in preparing for 2010.   Good teamwork is no accident and is not a ‘soft’ option. Maximillion’s expert facilitators, through our proven approach in designing and facilitating in-house or awayday events and processes with good follow-up, can act as the catalyst in helping you achieve it.

You can read Peter Dunn’s profile here

For further information on any of the team development or related issues that Peter has raised here, please contact Learning & Development Consultant Sandy Smith on 0131 333 066 and

Read more about Maximillion’s corporate events.

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