Analytical 22: Teamwork

18 February, 2018


Teamwork is often thrown around as a concept, but do we each really understand whether we’re team players or not? What will you choose?

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculator choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. for other great shows, visit today. Teamwork. I'm occasionally told, and no, not that often, like every day, but often from just time to time, that one of my knacks is to think through problems to find their root cause. And I also know that one of my other habits is to overthink things, so hopefully we don't get too circular, but anyhow. Seriously, I've thought a lot recently about winning, losing, survival, and perhaps more specifically in a business context. Because if you're in a position where you're trying to solve a specific problem that requires a team effort in some capacity, then how do you define success and which path leads to survival for the most at the end? And hence, you could consider that to be your best success. I mean, I'd rather not debate specifically whether your own survival is worth more or less to you individually the survival of the majority or even entirety of those involved. So we're going to assume that we're just not so selfish and self-involved that our own survival is somehow worth more than that of the majority. So let's just run with that. It's an interesting problem to sort of try and define, let alone solve it, and better still to try and appreciate because it's very easy to oversimplify it and miss the key points I think. The best way to frame this I think is to look at some of the the wrong approaches. So let's look at people that, for example, A) may say they jump straight into a situation and try to insert themselves between the bad outcome and direct item or items causing the pressure. Or look at what others appear to be successful doing and just replicate what those apparently successful people are doing in their approach and and their strategy and the way that they're attacking the problem. So maybe maybe it'd help to think about one of those management expressions but one that actually might might actually be useful. "Too busy bailing water out of the boat to stop it from sinking to fix the leak." Maybe I mangled that expression. It's hard to find an exact quote but that's kind of the gist of it. In other words, the boat's sinking. It's got a leak somewhere but if you don't keep bailing the water out, you're gonna, the boat's gonna sink. So you're too busy bailing that water out to stop it from sinking in order to stop enough for enough time to find where the leak's coming from. So one of the great things about that is that it's actually a very good analogy. So let's suppose you were in an actual situation just like that. So let's step through this one step at a time. One, hop into the boat. Or well maybe someone made you hop into the sinking boat or it started sinking after you hopped in it and you popped in it before it started to sink. So yeah that would yeah anyway. So So two, notice that the water level is rising around your feet. Apart from the fact that you now have wet feet, well, and they're probably icky and very uncomfortable, you realize you're in the middle of an ocean and the bottom of the ocean is slightly deeper than you are tall, by a few thousand feet or so. So you're going to be treading water very shortly if you don't do something about it. And giving it treading water as pastimes go generally sucks. That plus the water is freezing cold, you're not going to be able to keep your head up above water for that long before you freeze to death, so you're going to need to find something to hold onto since you won't float forever in the ocean except that the only thing that floats is the boat that you're on and oh yeah that's right it's sinking. So basically you've conducted a quick risk assessment and it turns out you're screwed because the boat's sinking. Who would have thought huh? Anyway that probably happened instinctively or maybe in less than about 1-2 seconds maybe 3. Anyhow. on to step three then. Your survival instincts will set in or maybe just figure out that you still have something to add to the world at large, you have family somewhere, hopefully they're not on the boat with you and you therefore choose to live or at least to attempt to live because you know life's probably more interesting than death so what the heck. Either way you've decided that you want to live and the sinking boat is about to get in the way of that goal big time. So number four we say oh look there's a bunch of buckets over in corner. They float? Well yes they do but they will also allow you to bail water out of the stupid sinking boat and since bailing water out will slow the boat down from sinking in fact if you bail quickly enough you might even reach an equilibrium where the water is coming into the boat at the same rate that the water is being bailed out of the boat and if you're really really lucky maybe you can bail faster than the water coming in. Mind you if you actually stopped at all the water will all simply come in again. So you haven't really achieved much more than just a stay of execution. Now you're going to get tired at some point after you've been bailing bucket after bucket after bucket after bucket of water out. You're just going to get very very tired. At which point you won't be able to actually you know bucket of water out of there anymore and you just die anyway. What's worse than that you'll be a lot tireder when you die and that's an even bigger bummer. So it's I guess that's kind of if we reverse back to option A from above that's kind of that. Anyway, so up to five. Everyone else is running around like an idiot, grabbing whatever they think can float and that's option B if you remember. Just replicate that behavior that everyone else is doing, running around crazy looking for things to float. You'll probably find something that floats. Now you can hang on to that and maybe you'll live, probably. You might still freeze, sure, why not? I mean you might survive with a handful of others but that's about it. So here we are. Let's recap. One, you're in a boat. Two, you realize you're sinking. 3. Choose life. 4. Try and stop the effect, not the cause, and never stop because you're never really fixing anything. Grab on to whatever others are trying to and not really save anything other than yourself and that's only if you're still very lucky. So one way you're stuck in a cycle of despair, bailing infinitely and probably going to die die anyway in the end. Or alternatively, it's everyone for themselves. Maybe you survive, maybe you don't. So let's think about the fundamental truth. Everyone in the boat is in the same boat. Yeah, funny that. Everyone is going to die. No one life of one person is more valuable than any others by any measure. So when you jump in that boat, you can either try to do what's best for you or what's best for everyone in the boat. So grabbing anything that floats isn't going to save very many people, much less yourself. So that's actually probably the worst outcome you could come up with. Picking up a bucket and bailing out the water on your own. Well, that's just isn't going to work for long, and it's unlikely to stop it from sinking. But if you have more than one bucket or if you work on shifts with one or two other people sharing the same bucket, then you'll have time to share the workload, which means you can do that for longer. But even with that, you're still in trouble unless you figure out why the boat's sinking. So you look around, nominate the strongest and best people to bail out the water on a rotating shift. And then you pick others to seek out the cause of the boat sinking. Once they find that cause, you pick the smartest people to fix the source of the problem and stop the water coming in. And they have to work in parallel with those people bailing all the water out. So you're monitoring that flow rate coming in and out, and you project how much time you've got left and to detect whether you're winning or losing the battle. When you're the one patching the leak, there's probably a heck of a lot of pressure to deliver that and to get it fixed like yesterday. I like to think of it as trying to engineer an umbrella from scratch in the middle of a thunderstorm, pouring on your head whilst you're trying to actually build it. So in the end, if everyone does the best at what they've been assigned to do, no one dies, everyone survives and everyone wins. Yes, it's gonna be a hard slog. Yes, you're gonna be tired, you're gonna be sore when it's over, but you'll look back and you'll be amazed that you pulled it off. And that is actually what teamwork means. The key point here is there isn't actually any other way to maximize the survival rate. It's either you all work together or you all fall apart. and every single person on that boat gets to impact the final outcome one way or the other. They have free will, they can choose. So people talk about KPIs, key performance indicators or metrics that measure where everyone is. And that's important for planning 'cause you need to know if you're on track or not. You can like 'em, you can hate 'em, but they can be invaluable. Monitoring the flow in and out, that's important. Mind you, just make sure you pick the right ones. Another topic for another day. Anyway, good management is knowing how to pick the right person for the right job that will best complement their skills. It's not the whole thing, obviously, but it's an important part of it. On the other hand, good leadership is about inspiring the people to follow the plan and not just that, to give their best effort as well. It's the hardest part, I think, and it doesn't come naturally to everyone. And sometimes it doesn't come to people at all no matter how hard they try. So if you are going to be stepping on a boat, real or mythical, either way, if it ever starts to sink, you just need to ask yourself a question. Are you the sort of person that will grab something and run away? Or are you the sort of person that will play whatever part they need to play to help the team survive? be part of the solution that helps everybody. Because in the end, that choice is yours. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can, like some of our backers, Chris Stone, Ivan, and Carsten Hansen. They, and many others, are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free, higher-quality releases of every episode. There's a back catalogue of ad-free episodes available, and a new "making an episode" tier as well. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards and beyond that, it's all very much appreciated. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon @chijji or for our shows on Twitter @engineered_net. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chijji. Thanks for listening. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (dramatic music) (dramatic music) (dramatic music) (upbeat music) [MUSIC PLAYING]
Duration 11 minutes and 9 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.