Every now and then, a few of my closest friends get together to have what we call a ‘Spontaneous Day’. It really goes against the grain for me as the whole idea is that we don’t plan to do anything ahead of time until we actually see each other. The uncertainty is daunting, but we always have phenomenal days when we aren’t burdened with the pressure of knowing what to expect in advance. I strongly recommend trying it if you ever find yourself with the time to do it! Yesterday, we got together for one of these spontaneous days and within an hour or two, found ourselves in a five-person rowing boat drifting along the river Thames:
I can safely say that I don’t think I’ve laughed quite so much in a very long time. We were awful! We tried a number of techniques; an oar each, two of us with two oars, counting in our strokes, getting the person that wasn’t rowing to direct us…none of it really worked for us. Whilst we certainly improved by the end of it, our skills and teamwork left a lot to be desired. One thing I did notice however, is that rowing is an incredible analogy for those of us who operate in teams or organisations.
Take the boat we were in yesterday. When there were four of us rowing, we had to try and ensure that we were doing so simultaneously…if we didn’t, a number of issues arose. For example, if Dave Hulme and I (on the right on the photo) were rowing much better than Anna and George (on the left), the boat would stop heading in a straight line and begin veering off course. However, Dave Hulme and I also had a responsibility to synchronise our own rowing together, as failure to do so meant that our oars would clash together constantly and render us almost totally useless. We found that having someone to remind us of which direction we needed to travel in was incredibly beneficial to us as it created a sense of team that was non-existent within the first ten minutes of our adventure.
This is an interesting image for those of us within teams or organisations. If we fail to synchronise the way we move forward together within our teams, we find ourselves clashing – not only can this be damaging, but we can also lose huge amounts of momentum and this can actually affect our organisation. Similarly, if the entire organisation is not simultaneously moving forward, it runs the risk of swerving in a direction that it’s not actually intended to be heading in and make the journey to its goal a whole lot longer. Being constantly reminded of your overall vision is also very useful. It’s vital that the team or organisation knows exactly which direction it should be going. This has an impact on decisions that are made, where particular efforts are focussed and also brings the groups together to foster a sense of camaraderie.
Our goal as both teams and organisations should be to improve the way we ‘row’ together. By simply working to improve our communication, synchronisation and direction, we begin to move forward in a much more controlled manner. It’s during those times that the extremely exciting developments can begin to take hold.