For decades I’ve been evangelizing People, Process and Purpose as key enablers of innovation, breakthrough design and successful business. I began to sense something interesting early in my career when working on multimillion dollar projects with large teams. Despite the chaos and dysfunction that routinely existed, when success happened, I could often trace it back to a small group of people. 

As I observed this phenomena over time I began to see some common patterns. Three things were typically present when these large programs succeeded:

  1. People — There was always a core group of intelligent, creative people driving the work. This was never a large team and it was typically self formed. This team was usually responsible for ensuring the completion of the critical work, often directly leading and sometimes executing it.
  2. Process — This team worked together in an efficient and organized way. Sometimes using conventional processes and methods, other times defining them as they went. Regardless, there were always identifiable processes underlying the effort.
  3. Purpose — There was an intangible bond present. It took me a bit longer to get a handle on this. I began noticing that these groups often formed friendships that lasted well beyond the programs. They worked long hours and supported each other seemingly more for the team than the project. There was a special glue present. A common bond, a kinship, that often related to shared values, interests and beliefs. A desire to accomplish something meaningful. A shared sense of purpose!

I began referring to this phenomena as “The Magic of Teams” and set out to intentionally replicate it. I quickly found that all 3 of the key elements were required. You could put smart people together with the best processes and tools over and over and the results would vary from poor to good. Rarely would they be great. The less tangible element of Purpose was the driving force behind the success.

Of course replicating the Magic of Teams is easier said than done. Businesses typically can’t spend millions on large programs staffed by 100s of resources in hopes of capturing the magic from a serendipitously formed team. Those small teams exist inside most corporations, many times over. Getting the right group together is difficult but achievable. Processes can be designed to facilitate their efforts. Perhaps the biggest challenge is aligning them around a shared sense of purpose.

I’ve found the best way to create the magic of teams is to build it from scratch. One person at a time. Intelligent, creative, talented people who value great processes, great work and most importantly share a common sense of purpose.

The Magic of Teams requires People, Process and Purpose!