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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Building Quality Culture = Building a “Dream Team”

Posted by Scott Rutherford
Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Borawski’s August blog post for me required contemplation.  I have written a couple of blog posts on quality culture so I did not want to sound like a broken record.  This post is going to come from another direction.  What does a quality culture feel like to me?
I have met a gentleman who has his own consultancy.  He offers a course for leaders that I think is appropriate for our topic: building a “dream team.”  There have been two times in my post-undergraduate life where I have been on a dream team.  My first participation on a dream team was my Army officer advanced training course.  I met some great people and, as a collective in the short period of 6 months, we accomplished some really interesting stuff.   We worked, played, lived as a high performance team.  It was a great time to be alive. Everyone looked out for each other.  It was very sad when we all had to go our separate ways. 
My second experience as a dream team was not so long ago when I was teaching with the NAVSEA Lean Six Sigma College.  We accomplished some phenomenal things; building curriculum, flying around the world teaching to various audiences, mentoring others.  We laughed hard, fought hard, played hard, and accomplished in a short time some pretty amazing stuff that to this day we shake our heads about.  Again, we loved going to work, sharing out thoughts, grousing about each other but knowing that the next experience coming down the road was special.   It was heart wrenching to leave that group.  But what I have come to realize is that I had to leave in order to grow professionally and personally.
The ideal state for quality culture is finicky, fleeting, and fun to be in the moment.   I don’t know if you can sustain that sweet spot because it combines the right people with the right leadership with the clear interpretation of purpose by the entire team.   However, you also have to break the team up because keeping an individual in that team could stunt their future professional growth.   Leadership is going to change, team members are going to change.  Although the underlying purpose and expectations may be constant, the human aspect of different personalities adapting to new roles are what cause that shift out of the ideal state.  It is not bad, it is reality.
So the real question is how can you sustain the “sweet spot” of the ideal quality culture?  I don’t think you can for an extended period of time.  People come and go; they have to change roles in order for them to grow professionally.  Will the next leader embrace the culture?  Fortunately, at the college we had three leaders who did and we successfully kept things going for 5 years, through a number of instructor changes. You cannot count on the next leader to accept the previous one’s direction.  Secondly, the team has to understand with clarity the culture and accept it without reservations.  Traditional recruiting methods for team members don’t necessarily help in sustaining this type of team.  For the college team we were mostly recruited based on someone knowing someone else and would they be a good fit.
So, gentle reader, when have you been on a “dream team?” What did it feel like for you? Do you look back on them with fond memories?

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