01 02 03 "CorporateTheatre": The Wisdom of Teams - 2 - Hierarchy in 'Natural' Teams 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Wisdom of Teams - 2 - Hierarchy in 'Natural' Teams

(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are bold.)

"Hierarchy and teams go together almost as well as teams and performance. Teams integrate and enhance formal structures and processes. Hierarchical structures and basic processes are essential to large organizations and need not be threatened by teams. Teams, in fact, are the best way to integrate across structural boundaries and to both design and energize core processes. Those who see teams as a replacement for hierarchy are missing the true potential of teams."

One of the typical comments that is heard when participants discuss their "CorporateTheatre" workshop experience is:

"there was no hierarchy", yet everyone pitched in with complete involvement and commitment to deliver excellence beyond expectations.

I remind them that there WAS  very rigid hierarchy.  There was the King, and the slave.  There was the Don and there were sidekicks massaging his legs, and terrified dancing girls dancing for him.  There was the political bigwig and his bodyguards.  However, these were purely functional hierarchies at the level of the 'character' that was necessary for the role that they had to play.  At the level of the 'actor' there was no hierarchy.  Nobody felt superior or inferior to another as actors.

So also in a 'natural' team there is hierarchy, and great respect for functional hierarchy.  For instance, the slave will not sit on the King's throne even though he considers himself equal to the King at the level of the actor.  But the hierarchy is not carried into the relationship or interaction outside that particular role and function, outside that particular work situation.

A manager who carries his or her hierarchy outside the workplace is like an actor who refuses to take off the costume and make up after the play, and into the cast party, or home.  It is an insecure manager who feels the need to carry the functional hierarchy outside the relevant role and function.  


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