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Plan a wedding and you will be surprised how big your family is. Of course your old aunts should be invited. And if you invite your old aunts, you cannot leave out all the cousins from your old aunties side. And those cousins will bring their partner. And their kids. For sure.
You will be surprised how big your family can be.
Especially if you count in all those relatives that you don’t know. Never met. Perhaps you have heard some stories about them (never in a good way of course). But you wouldn’t recognize them if they were dancing the polka with a penguin in front of you.
Well. You would recognize them the next time you see them. As the guys dancing the polka with a penguin. That is an image hard to erase from memory.
Do you know how big the group is you are working in?
People hop from one project to another. Collaboration is temporary and fluent. Teammates will come and go. You might not have seen them. You open up a log from a couple of weeks ago and you see an entry from someone you have never heard off. He was one of your team members at that time.
If you are working with an offshore team, you might know the team lead. But do you know all his colleagues? All the people he asks for help?
I have talked about the importance of identity and culture. And one of the assumptions I had was that you know who’s in your group. You might not know those people very well. But you are at least aware that you are both contributing to a shared cause. But as I just realized, this might not be the case.
This sounds like a problem to me.
“Organizational analysts refer to the challenge of establishing team identity as a boundary definition problem for teams, when members are spread across large distances whether geographic or cultural in nature,” writes Larry Irons, in an insightful post titled “Social Learning, Collaboration and Team Identity“.
Is it necessary for (distributed) teams to know every member, to all agree on who is a member, to reduce boundary definition problems, to perform well?
Larry Irons quotes research performed by Mark Mortensen that looks into the effect of boundary disagreement in distributed teams and the team performance. He summarizes the findings as “In other words, lack of an agreement on who is a member of a distributed team does not present a problem that needs solving in order to manage performance.”
That’s good news. We are truly capable of operating in an ever changing web of working relationships.
The main problem I see for me personally is to write about groups, identity and culture as something diffuse and fluid. It’s one thing to say that nothing is fixed and everything is changing, but it gets incredibly difficult to describe.
Let me draw it for you. Perhaps doodling helps.