Keeping the engine running

By Doug Johnson

“Show me a picture”

At Voyage Consulting we are often asked to describe what we do in the form of an analogy. In this article I am going to use the likeness of a motor car.

A car is like to a team because it is the sum of the parts working together that makes it effective and enables it to do what it is designed for. Take out a small part, like a sparkplug, and it cannot function. Take out a large part, like a wheel, and the result is the same. Of course we all know that it is the nut behind the steering wheel that causes the most problems!

We look after our cars because they are expensive and because we would be lost without them. We house them in garages, wash them regularly, fill them up with fuel, check the oil and tyres, have them serviced like clockwork. We know that if we do not look after them we will pay the price.

In the old days when life was simple we could tinker with our cars, and if we were handy with our hands, do our own servicing. These days most of them are too complex to even open the bonnet.

What about the teams in your business or organisation?

They are similar to cars. It is the sum of the parts working together that makes them effective. A group of people in an office does not make a team. If one part is not functioning optimally the whole team becomes unproductive.

Just as cars have become more complex, so life in general has become more complex, and therefor relationships and teams have followed suite. We can no longer do business as individuals. We have to have a team.

We cannot pay attention to our cars, or do maintenance on our buildings and other assets, and hope that if we place a bunch of people in a room that they will function optimally.

When a car shows symptoms of it not running properly, there could be many causes. We can fiddle here and there, but it is usually prudent to send it to the experts. In a team with complex individuals the root causes of malfunction can be numerous.

When a team does not function properly the members of the team become less productive. The temptation when productivity begins to drop, but the job still needs to be done, is to add more people. This just exacerbates the problem.

People are your most important, and by far the most expensive, asset.

Isn’t it time you paid more attention to them than your car?