We are on the same team

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We are on the same team. Sounds like words of wisdom from a football coach goading his players to work and play together as a team. And this could easily apply to the corporate world but with a cunning twist.

It is often, perhaps always, that different departments in the company work at loggerheads with one another, often with diagonally opposite, self-serving objectives. But, in line with the cloak and dagger principle of corporate culture, everyone pretends to be working towards a common purpose, often that of the ‘other guy’. To leave no room for error in conveying this pretension, all quarters keep reiterating, ‘we are on the same team’.

Take the classic case of completing a major IT project for a customer. The sales department, right up to the VP of Sales, has promised the moon to the client. As the project team, with a well defined project plan consisting of 2000 activities, kicks into high gear trying to deliver to their mantra of on-time-on-budget mission, they are presented with innumerable deviations from scope by the client, who insists that these were promised to them by the company’s sales team. A classic tug of war ensues and internal ‘escalations’ in the company result in endless meetings. This is where the VP of Sales, Ben, steps in and announces to the Director, IT, in the presence of the CEO, “David, are we all not on the same team – trying to satisfy and retain the customer? Why do you not want to listen to the customer?”. David sarcastically replies, “Yes, we are on the same team of losing money for the company”. The CEO loses his cool and shouts, “Ben and David, get this mess sorted out” and what does he conclude with – you got it – “we are all working for the same company”!

This amazing principle of vehemently disagreeing while repeatedly expounding the exact opposite is found at all levels in the organization. Between engineering teams and their nemesis, the dreaded quality assurance team. Between the Controller, Finance and the CEO who wants a favorable portrayal of the company’s financial results. And between the Office Manager, who is desperately trying to furnish the new C-Suite conference room for the upcoming annual executive meeting the following week, and the Purchase Manager who is trying to negotiate a 10-dollar discount with the supplier.

Fun is always round the corner in the corporate world.