The Greatest Unsolvable Obstacles to Cross Teamwork

Teamwork within one team is quite achievable. Cross teamwork (between teams in an organization) remains the elusive brass ring of effectiveness.

Leaders who want to break through an organization’s performance barriers find the greatest — seemingly unsolvable — obstacles in cross teamwork. Much has been studied and tested yet the obstacles persist.

For this reason, it is worthwhile to look at the issues again.

The Greatest Unsolvable Obstacles to Cross Teamwork Image by:EvaTheWeaver

The Greatest Unsolvable Obstacles to Cross Teamwork

Perhaps listing the seemingly unsolvable obstacles here will bring new focus and insight — especially for new leaders and managers in the thick of it.

  1. Shared Goals With Greatly Opposing Pathways. We can all nod our heads and say yes this happens. Experts will chime in with facilitation techniques and processes that can resolve the differences. Wonderful. Yet when this happens in between teams in great volume, it represents a loss of performance.
  2. Individual Preservation. An obstacle that surprises many is a rogue individual acting purely from self-preservation.

    An illustration: In an episode of the old television show MASH, the unit calls for ambulances to take the post-op patients away to make room for the new wounded. A corporal at HQ refuses to send the ambulances because he was told to take care of those Army resources. A general finally says to him, I can see you care about the ambulances. Why don’t you drive them up here yourself to ensure their safety! The corporal then releases the ambulances. The general identified the cross teamwork barrier — self preservation — and turned it into a solution.

    Are any team members so risk averse that they are taking actions that actually prevent cross teamwork and organizational success? The first place to look for this is in areas where leaders have stressed security, monitoring, metrics, and strict processes. Has it gone too far?

  3. Too Much Change and Chaos. When high volume organizational change creates a feeling of total chaos, the results on cross teamwork can be disastrous. Each team, struggling to grasp the new direction, closes in a virtual huddle to manage the chaos. Reaching out to other teams would feel like increased chaos.

    How steep is your change curve? It might look great in strategy sessions yet if it puts the teams into preservation mode, it creates a performance barrier instead of solving one.

  4. Mistaken Empowerment. Many an organization has dipped in performance as a result of mistaken empowerment. When a leader taps someone who is not ready or capable of key responsibility, many teams shut down in response to the incompetence. If it’s within a team, the leader can more easily correct the mistake. Yet when this mistake affects other teams, it affects cross teamwork and organizational performance.
  5. Politics and Hidden Agendas. After a leadership strategy session, does each leader send the same message to his or her team? If leaders, consiously or subconsiously filter the strategy through their political or private agendas, the message comes out differently to each team. The obstacles to cross teamwork are enormous in this case because they may be hidden. The teams nod in agreement over stated goals yet each team is acting on the message received from its leader.

There are other obstacles to cross teamwork including different occupational perspectives, incompatible technology, time zones, cultural differences and so forth. However, concrete steps tend to remove these barriers.

The 5 greatest obstacles noted above take root and the effects spread like weeds strangling organizational performance. They seem unsolvable even though they aren’t. Awareness, vision, commitment, courage, and action can turn it around. Who will initiate it? That’s the question.

What say you? Would you add to this list of 5? Subtract? Or do you disagree?

From my experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes that turn interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times of change. See this site for workshop outlines and customer results.

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