How To Build Committed Teams

It’s hard but not impossible

One of the key reasons many projects fail is that there is no commitment from the stakeholders and team members. If no commitment is the issue in your project, you probably are pushing “solutions”. You probably are trying to convince people to work on your great idea or your great new invented thing you thought of. You are doing your best to make them WANT it.

If you happen to be in that situation with your project, you end up doing a lot of “transactional work” with your individual team members instead of getting the committed team you wanted. Individual team members keep bringing the project back to you. They are not as to say “running with it”. Sounds familair?

This is because you are mixing things that don’t blend well. Let me explain.

Every project that is presented to potential new team members either triggers a need or triggers a want. The narrative with which the manager presents the project defines this. So the first thing you need to understand is if the team needs to be organised around a NEED or around a WANT.

Needs and wants

Relations are built around a shared “NEED”. A need is another way to describe a “lack of” something. It is the acknowledgment that as a group(not team) you lack something. This is what will form a relation within the group. You are as a group incomplete sort to say. This is what i call a vulnerable statement, which is hard, but key to generate a strong team. A vulnerability statement is an expression that something requires attention. There is so to say a “patient”. It is the quality of this vulnerability statement that defines the quality of the team that will emerge after the statement.

The other side of the coin is the world of WANTS. This is the world of desire, usage and transactions. It is the world where we all see a shiny thingy; the apple. It’s the world of stimulus-response. It’s an exchange in the moment of time. It is the world of marketplaces and trade. It’s the place where we don’t show or share our “needs”, our insecurities, our pains. We are all on stage and perform our act. It is much more opportunistic and less purpose driven. We play and dance.

Transactional and relational teams

The teams that are formed around WANTS are what I call transactional teams. They are built around solutions(The new hero). The main motivation to join this team is that everybody will “profit” from the solution(want). In these teams loyalty, commitment, investments, risk-taking is scarce. Which per definition is not a bad thing. You could see such a team as a micro business model canvas. Everybody brings their role to the table and together they generate a pleasurable result. The individual members of these teams generally don’t fall over when this single project fails. Agreements are drawn up for relatively short periods with clearly defined “outputs”(not inputs).

On the other side we have relational teams that are built around the NEEDS(problems). The main motivation to join the team here is that everybody will be “healed” from the problem(need). People give themselves to the project. The project redefines them as a person. They will “act” in the name of the project. The team is their new identity. It’s a heavier more serious approach. It requires a more ceremonial way for a team to be formed. The team needs to be “baptised” into being.

Spaces in which teams emerge

Now, these two types of teams are not mutually exclusive. I would encourage organisations to allow for both to happen. It requires an organization to create two type spaces in which these teams can emerge. In these spaces, narratives are presented. Narratives are stories about the project. The story is shaped depending on the space it is presented.

Company as a temple space

Everybody is connected to a higher purpose. Teams are created out of love for the group. Loyalty to the group is continuously challenged. Group members identify themselves as a part of the group and what they have in common.

Company as a marketplace space

Everybody makes use of the marketplace. Teams are created around objects of attraction. Individual performance is continuously challenged. Group members identify themselves through their clearly defined value in the process.

Depending on the situation a company should either drop a challenge in the church or in the marketplace. This all depends on the type vulnerability statement and by who it is communicated.

Vulnerability statements

In the Japanese language, there is the word Mu, which means “lack off” or “not having”. It is a highly complicated word that for example can be used at the moment a “yes” or “no” answer to a question is inappropriate. It is used when we have not yet found a form(noun, thing, technology, meaning, idea) for something. It is too early for a yes or no question. We are still in the stage of lacking. It is this “pre-binary” or “post-binary” stage in which emergence of teams occurs.

Temple Statements

Lack of meaning(WHY?): On a personal level, this means that you don’t know the effect of something on your personal situation. Something entered your context that is new. You can’t categorize it yet. It has no “place”. On an organizational level, these are the technology trends that will probably affect your business. The relation to a “new object” is still undefined.

Lack of solution(HOW?): This happens after you have said yes to some sort of commitment, but have no idea on how to deliver on this commitment. A nice example is Kennedy stating that in 10 years they will fly to the moon. The object(Apollo 11) that will bring the result(fly to the moon) is not invented yet.

Marketplace Statements

Lack of function(WHAT?): This happens when new things are available but don’t get any attention or are not being used. This could be a person that lacks recognition or a tool that lacks usage.

Lack of results: This happens when a solution, that has a function and delivers results suddenly does not bring the results anymore that were expected.

So what can you do now?

Stop handpicking teams.

Teams emerge, they don’t get picked. You can pick them, they will build you something and they will it give it back to you. And once they give it back, it is dead. It has no soul. It has no consciousness and it has no survival mechanism. It is an unmanned object. It will be beautiful from the outside yet empty inside.

Clear project definition

What is lacking for this project? What is it that requires attention? Does it need a relational team or a transactional team? What is the patient or object of attraction through which the team can emerge?

Know which projects fit you

Depending on your personal psychological profile certain projects fit certain people better than others. Matching the type of project(relational or transactional) with people that have the right psychological profile increases your chances of success a lot. Check and discover your own profile.

Present a clear vulnerability statement

You need to get your project narrative straight. Spend time on framing this right. Every story has a metaphorical hero, a patient, a magic sword and a dragon to slay. Discover what are yours. Also, find the right space to present your vulnerability statement. What/where is the “marketplace”? In which temple do you need to find your “loyal followers”?

Create the right culture

Let the company define their own business challenges. Organize a moment in time where all employees become observers of their own workplace. Let them look at their workplace and let them identify what they believe needs attention. Depending on the type of challenges people will define you can easily define the culture of the company. Are these internal challenges or external challenges? Or these long-term challenges or short-term challenges? Offensive or defensive challenges? Leverage the culture that exists. Use the triggers as motivators to get things moving.

Stop setting goals if you are not committed yet.

As long as you are not ‘in the boat’ it has no use to set any goals. Also, don’t use goals to leverage commitment. You can only commit because of a higher purpose or higher values. Commitment requires you to relabel yourself. YOU become the means to an end.

If you interested to learn more about how to create high performing committed teams mail me at