The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Teamwork Makes The Screams Work …


A word used so much, by so many, to ironically control others into doing what they want them to do. It’s often got far more in common with production line subserviency than teamwork.

Then there’s the other version.

Where people spout teamwork with a big smile on their face while openly trying to fuck others over so they look better to the people who matter most. The boss, for example.

But what is even worse is when people are called out for not being a team player simply because they have a different opinion.

The great irony is they’re not doing it to be a pain or problematic or to express an ego. It’s to try and offer a viewpoint they think may help get an even better outcome so literally everyone wins.

But no.

They’re criticised, belittled, undermined and made to feel like they’re the problem.

Of course teamwork is important.

It can make a huge difference to the end result.

An exponential difference.

But to do that it’s not simply telling people to practice teamwork.

It’s about having the right people in the mix – by discipline, standards and character. It’s about ensuring everyone has clarity on what they’re all working towards beyond their individual discipline. It’s about ensuring everyone knows what is expected of them and how that works in relation to those around them. It’s about giving them the freedom to use their talent to push the standards and capabilities of what they are responsible for creating, while remaining true to the overall goal everyone is working towards achieving.

I learnt that last bit from the film director Michael Mann.

I found myself with him in a meeting so asked him how he makes films given the amount of different people and disciplines involved.

He told me he starts every project by sitting with the entire production team and explaining his vision for his movie.

The story he wants to make.
What is really important to him.
What he wants people to feel watching it.

He then added this vital element:

“I want everyone to use their talent to make this film better than I could imagine. But it’s has to be my vision of the film. Not one they think I should be making.”

I love that. I love it because his version of teamwork is encouraging everyone to play up to a standard rather than down to a tick box. Which all goes to show that real teamwork is so much more than just sticking a bunch of random people and companies in a room and expecting them to “be a team”.

But that’s what so many companies and managers do.

Either because they’re lazy or just want overall control.

Once upon a time a very good friend of mine went into his annual review.

He had done incredibly well and was hoping he would be recognised for it.

Instead he was bollocked …

Bollocked for having opinions.
Bollocked for asking questions.
Bollocked for not being a ‘team player’.

He listened patiently before replying with what is still the best fuck you, power play I’ve ever heard to that accusation.

“Oh I’m a team player …”, he said, “… I’m just the captain of the team”.

Forever proving – as the pic at the top of this post shows – that as much as people may try to tell you otherwise, there is most definitely an ‘I’ in team.


17 Comments so far
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Brilliant post Rob. Corporations have a habit of hijacking terms so they can administer control over their people while pretending they are promoting an environment of harmony or effectiveness. Agile is the latest. Instead of promoting decisive decision making, it swaps layers of hierarchy and replaces it with confusion, superficiality and chaos.

I assume the captain of the team is Adrian?

Good week of posts Robert.

Comment by George

i had someone tell me about how their company had adopted an agile approach. asked them to explain what it meant. took them 10 minutes. asked them how it had made their work better. big fucking pause. agile is just a fucking excuse for churning out shit and not being made to feel bad for it. management consultant wanker talk..

Comment by andy@cynic

i hate this agile shit so much i can almost forgive apple for bringing out the same fucking shit every fucking year.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob

Sounds so much like Adrian.

Comment by Pete

Oh don’t get me started …

It’s like design thinking. There is so much good in that … but the way so many companies have adopted it [ie: ignoring context and blindly ‘following the rules’] means it not only has lost a huge amount of its value, but it has directly contributed to a shortfall in quality of output.

What people forget is that all these systems and processes are only as good as the people instigating them which are only as good as the people who taught them it.

It’s not a guarantee of success. People forget design thinking went into as much shit products as good … agile thinking has ruined as many companies as it has made. There’s way too much outsourcing of responsibility to these approaches. Some do it brilliantly – mainly because they were born that way. Many don’t … doing it to either look interesting or in the hope it will make their business more efficient.

Comment by Rob

Generalising domain-specific methodologies is the epitome of laziness and grasping at the new shiny rather than doing the hard yards.

Comment by John

another of my heroes youve tainted.

Comment by andy@cynic

How many now is it?

Comment by Pete

Too many apparently.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. Love the Michael Mann story.

Comment by Pete

Yep, it’s a good one. And it was such valuable advice for me too.

Comment by Rob

It also explains why Heat is such a mess.

Comment by John

I agree with you John. The only reason it is so highly is because people are focused on Pacino and De Niro sharing the screen and the final bank heist has excellent sound design.

Comment by Lee Hill

I agree Lee. Bits of it are terrific (not the shoot-out), but it’s way too long and not close to being his best work

Comment by John

Heathens …

Though it probably is rubbish. But that final shootout is brilliant and I won’t have a word said against it.

Comment by Rob

What many companies mean by teamwork is “don’t give the c-suite headaches.”

Comment by Lee Hill

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