(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 in bold.)
"The team made no secret of their desire to build a new kind of cross-functional organization that would knock down the traditional barriers between marketing, operations, accounting, information systems, and so on.
“There was always a lot of disagreement, different ideas, different areas of emphasis. But there was always self-respect and respect for others.”
When doing a play, there are many different and interdependent functions that have to work together - acting, direction, set design, sound, light, costumes, make up, props. Each function calls for varied and specialized competencies. Nevertheless, everyone's primary focus and commitment is to the play and every function does its best to do everything possible to facilitate the actor's delivery. The end customer - the audience - experiences the play through the actor. Though the director is in a sense, the designated and hierarchical leader, once the play starts, he is not seen and his presence is not emphasized. (I have come back from plays without even knowing who the director was.) The audience judges the sets, props, lights and sound, only in so far as it helped the actors to tell their story and communicate their experience. The group as a whole is the 'team', the play is the primary goal, and the audience is the customer.
So also, in a corporate team, there can be interdependent functions. But no one function, like sales, service, technical, finance, marketing, can deliver unless they work towards the collective success of the larger team as a whole. Very often, even in seemingly well performing organizations, we see people working with overriding loyalty to their own role or function, to the detriment of the team and undermining of the larger goal.
Once everyone has clarity of the larger goal, and commitment to a collective success, the difference in perspectives that each function brings into the process is welcomed, and contradiction does not degenerate into conflict. There is complete trust that everyone, no matter how different their approach, is ultimately working for the same goal and the same success. Self-respect and respect for others arises from this trust in each other's commitment to a collective goal and success that will in some way contribute to the larger good.