Are "Teams" a meaningful unit of learning? LO13765

Stever Robbins (
Thu, 29 May 1997 09:33:29 -0400

Replying to LO13479 --

At 08:02 pm 5/5/97 -0400, you wrote:
> wrote in LO13443:
>>Thus, in practice, top management can squelch attempts to learn by
>>withholding resources thatthe team deems necessary.

>there is a theme through much of the literature that says looking outside
>of the system for "blame" is not productive.

I agree wholeheartedly. Put that way, perhaps the question is where to
draw the boundaries of "the system." Since both the success measurements
and resources are presumably coming from upper management, I'm drawing the
boundaries of the system to include upper management.

It's hard to know where to draw boundaries most usefully. You could argue
that every individual should simply stop assigning blame and instead do
the best they can, but if top management gives them unattainable goals,
then "the best they can" will still get them fired.

>teams that followed that course who subsequently were granted all the
>resources they needed to complete the job.

Your statement implies my original point: they "WERE GRANTED" resources.
That doesn't sound like self-direction and empowerment. Regardless of
whether their idea generation and filtering was done under their own
direction, they ultimately had to get upper management to buy in and be
granted resources. That's the way our system is set up (though I
understand that DEC may actually have a policy of granting free budgets up
to a point to teams which generate ideas).

>can't any team decide to take a stand and do what is within its boundaries
>to accomplish change?

None of the teams I've worked on (as team member) had the scope to
implement fundamental operating changes. At best, we could change the way
we ran our meetings or interacted. What we couldn't change was our
schedules, resources, or goals, which often constrained us to the point of
not having the time to improve how we operated. It wasn't a matter of
taking a stand; it was a matter of being told, "Sure, you can do all that
learning stuff. But if you have time to do that, you must have time to
add the following 5 features to your delivery schedule. So add the
features, and use whatever time is left over to learn."

- Stever

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