I’ve found myself working with a lot of groups recently on the difference between being a team and being a gang.
In my professional opinion, most people think they are a part of a team but they are really part of a gang. Until you can see the difference, it’s hard to know the difference! So, here we go:
A gang is a group of individuals fighting for status at each other’s expense.
Think of a street gang where if you stab the guy next to you, you get to move up! Business gangs are quite so explicit (or violent), but the means to moving up remains similar. Inside this definition, gangs are very fractured and everyone has a personal agenda for survival and advancement. What gets lost is any focus on our customers – we are all too consumed with what’s happening inside the gang.
Compare: a team is a group of (potentially) disagreeable people aligned on producing a certain outcome.
On a team, there is a larger and common intention that a group is working towards that trumps any individual’s agenda. The disagreeable part means that while we all are working toward that common outcome, we are going to disagree along the way about how to get there. That’s why alignment is so important. If we can align, then we can support a decision that we don’t agree with, try to make it happen, then if it works, we were all a part of the solution. If it doesn’t work, we don’t stab the person who came up with the idea, we go back to our intention and try the next most powerful move.
Gangs are easy to create, difficult to maintain and very easy to defeat – others can play one person off against another.
Teams are difficult to create, easy to maintain and impossible to defeat – the alignment allows us to learn quicker without the attendant shame, blame and guilt.
So, once again, take a look at what you are a part of wherever you play with other people. It is always useful to know the condition of the environment you are in!