1.7.1 Team Unity

The ten keys to increasing our strength by the way we join with others.

Art of War Quote: 

Unity works because it enables you to win every battle you fight."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 3:5:1

Perspective: 

"Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking." Mahatma Gandhi

General Principle: 

The strength of a team's unity depends on leveraging individuality.

Situation: 

What makes a team different than any random group of people? What should make it different is its unity, the internal bond that makes a group strong. Bringing a group together doesn't automatically create that bond. As easily as groups can come together, they also come apart. As humans, we have two opposing natures. Part of our nature is as social creatures. We are drawn into groups and look for group approval and support. However, we also have a strong drive toward individuality, and we are natural critics of the group. That side of our nature resists losing our identity to the group, forsaking the strength of the group for our own independence.

Opportunity: 

The opportunity in unity for the individual comes from the strength of the group. Working with a group of people gives us access to broader skills and more resources than we have alone. The opportunity for the group is to bring people together in a way that their individuality strengthens rather than weakens the group. We can increase unity by celebrating individuality rather than suppressing it.

Key Methods: 

Unity works when it brings a team together so that others want to join as well. A successful team makes the individual special, adding distinctiveness rather than subtracting it. While we can never win everyone over, if we win enough people, those that still oppose us will not attempt a direct meeting in competition. The strategy of unity encompasses a number of important concepts:

  1. Unity increases if each person feels responsible for the group as a whole. When responsibility for the group as a whole is limited to management, the team will not be very unified. A team is unified when each individual feels responsible for the well-being of the group as a whole (1.7.2 Goal Focus).
  2. Unity increases if individuals trust each other to handle their individual responsibilities. This means that each individual knows his or her area of responsibility, is capable of handling it, and is trusted by others in performing it (6.8.3 Individual Toughness).
  3. Unity increases when individuals can work independently for the good of the team. External teams processes are usually more disconnected than internal teams. Because the environment is controlled,  unifying internal processes is easy. External activities are much more difficult to coordinate because the external environment is unpredictable and chaotic  (1.9.2 Span of Control).
  4. Unity increases when member's contributions are regularly recognized. The best programs recognize most people most of the time. This puts pressure on individual members who fail to contribute, making them more aware of their shortcomings even if the group itself doesn't make an issue of them (6.8.2 Group Strength).
  5. Unity increases from acting together under external pressure. Shared danger, action, and success have a unifying power. Unity doesn't come from making speeches. Opposition creates unity because it can force a group to come together. Situations with less opportunity to act together and win battles together tend to pull organizations apart (9.3.1 Mutual Danger).
  6. Unity increases if individuals have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Differences between individuals can increase unity more than similarity. Different personalities and skill sets depend on one another. Putting differences together in the right formula is the basis of strength in unity. A homogeneous group, where individuals have the same opinions and skills, will tend to agree on decisions, but it is limited in what it can do. A diverse group will tend to have broader perspective on a situation and more skills to apply to any given task, but it requires more trust in leadership to make decisions (3.5 Strength and Weakness).
  7. Unity increases when the mission minimizes differences in individual goals. The construction of a common mission is often the most creative and important work in strategy. Individuals may belong to a group for very different reasons and have different goals, however, they must find a common goal in the mission of the group. The job of creating groups is largely the work of imagining shared missions (1.6.1 Shared Mission).
  8. Unity increases when new members become the responsibility of existing individual members. Membership starts with direct personal relationships and responsibility. New members should feel responsible to their mentors and existing members should feel responsible to their wards (6.8 Competitive Psychology).
  9. Unity increases with clear chains of command. Good leadership involves a number of issues. The three most important are 1) clear lines of authority, 2) decisions that can be executed given the situation, and 3) communication skills that unify people ( (1.5.1 Command Leadership).
  10. Unity increases when opponents are unable to exploit its natural divisions. Networked organizations with many connections between members are stronger than large organizations with clear divisions in the hierarchy that can be exploited (9.2.5 Vulnerability of Organization).

Illustration: 

Some examples of how these principles are used or violated are below.

  1. Unity increases if each person feels responsible for the group as a whole. A soldier's first priority is to the members of his or her unit.
  2. Unity increases if individuals trust each other to handle their individual responsibilities. In NFL football, a defensive lineman can only defend his gap if he trusts his fellow linemen to defend their gaps.
  3. Unity increases when individuals can work independently for the good of the team. Within most large sales organizations, there are constant conflicts between sales responsibilities among different territories and divisions but individuals are still able to work together.
  4. Unity increases when member's contributions are regularly recognized. Most "employee of the month" programs are an example of too little, too seldom. Most people are always excluded so there is no pressure to perform.
  5. Unity increases from acting together under external pressure. A dangerous common enemy has historically been the best glue holding together an alliance.
  6. Unity increases if individuals have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Human beings have two separate physical forms: men and women. The oldest, more proven, and most successful team in human history, is a marriage based on uniting these differences.
  7. Unity increases when the mission minimizes differences in individual goals. While golf is a great contest of individuals, team events, such as the President's cup, offer no individual awards. All proceeds going to charity. 
  8. Unity increases when new members become the responsibility of existing individual members . Groups that leave new members to find their own way lose most of their members.
  9. Unity increases with clear chains of command. The reason that many ad hoc groups fail to accomplish their goals and fall apart is that responsibility is shared to the degree that it doesn't exist. 
  10. Unity increases when opponents are unable to exploit its natural divisions. One of the reasons that American car companies ran into so many problems was that their divisions created internal politics and conflict.

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