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Leaders Must Know Their Organization’s Three Distinct Team Processes: What They are and How They Work

By May 1, 2014Team Development


This excerpt is taken from “The jays, the Giants and the Lakers – A Systemic Model, Analysis and Prescription for Organizational Leadership”

Three Forms of Process or Task Interdependence

As you may know, I am almost obsessive that a leader understands the importance of knowing the systemic reasons for people’s behavior.

If you are familiar with my work at all, I contend that there are the organizational systems that companies use, unwittingly but consistently to effectively run their operations.

They are of likened to the three major team sports in North America, Football – the organization needing compliance; Basketball – the team needing cooperation; and Baseball – the players needing competition amongst themselves (example; sales).

This article will take that notion a step further.

Based on the organizational sports team model , it addresses the issue of task interdependence.

What are the various business  processes your company uses and what is the best way to have the best processes?

The crux of sound organization and superior service is effective management of task interdependence.

That is to say, how the different parts of an organization are related to each other and to the whole to deliver superior, personalized service as a matter of course.

There are three forms of internal organization, communication systems or task interdependence.

1.  Baseball: Pooled

2.  Football: Sequential

3. Basketball: Reciprocal


1.  Baseball Business Process: Pooled Interdependence


In Baseball the parts are relatively independent of each other and make discreet and separate contributions to the organization as a whole.

The whole is roughly the sum of its parts, each player’s individual contribution.

Like a sales force, a teacher or a research scientist.

Or a pure conglomerate or company system in which the various operating units have little to do with each other and interact periodically or minimally with the parent organization.

They carry out a variety of independent tasks, the order of occurrence of which is often impossible to predict. In those cases when the work of a Baseball-organization does unfold in sequence this sequence typically cannot be mapped beforehand.

Neither can the character of the end state be specified in any detail.

Clarity of process appears only in retrospect.

In essence, as in the diagram below, the various parts are soloist, virtuoso’s – independent players – like the players on a Baseball team.



2.  Football Business Process: Sequential Interdependence




In Sequential Interdependence, the parts interact in a serial fashion and each part makes a cumulative contribution to the organization as a whole.


Person A fabricates parts (by cutting, bending, drilling and so on), then

Person B assembles the parts into a whole product,

Person C tests the product

Person D packages and ships it.

Example of Sequential Interdependence: McDonald’s


 Another example is the system based sequential service process McDonald’s uses to take, cook and serve the customer’s order.

McDonald’s restaurant technology has been meticulously engineered.

1.  Raw meat patties are pre measured and prepackaged;

2.  Storage and preparation space are dictated by predetermined by product mix;

3.  The French fries preparation process is rigorously specified;

4.  The paper in which each sandwich is wrapped is color coded to indicate condiments;

5.  Prepared sandwiches are held in heated reservoirs and so on.

The idea is to approximate a machine.

That is how and why the nicknames – MacChine, Big MacChine – came about.

In a sequential process, each activity occurs in a specified order, like:

A Football being snapped by the center to the quarterback

Then handed off to the running back

To then be repeated like a string of first downs in a Football scoring drive.



3.  Basketball: Cross-Functional and Reciprocal Interdependence

Virtually every part of the organization interacts with every other part, in no particular order.

Interaction is frequent, frenetic and initiated by each part, as in the case of a think tank consulting firm in which several specialties work together feverishly to solve an interdisciplinary problem or a specialty chemical firm in which several disciplines team up to solve a complex customer problem.



The pattern here is just like that of a Basketball team that whips the ball continuously around the court until an opportunity to score a basket occurs.

Plays that lead to baskets frequently involve every player.

The intensely interactive character of the sport is also evident in the often-frenetic movement up and down the court, a far cry from the measured advance of a classic Football scoring drive.


Cross Functional

Each person has a specific role to play (forward, center or guard), but they all pass, shoot, dribble and rebound as is necessary for the success of the team.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Note the diagram below, depicting this cross-functional and reciprocal process.

Question:  Who is the leader of this process?


Your Organizational Structure and Process Indicators

To further help you determine whether your organization and its’ primary processes are mostly like a Baseball, Football or Basketball team

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions about your company or division:


1.  Pooling Your Results like a Baseball Team Indicator


 1.  Is the work that needs to be done distinct in that each project or job can be easily defined and identified?

2.  Can each person handle the work to be done with a client in its entirety and take full responsibility for working with that client without relying on other team members?

3.  Do team members prefer to work more independently?

4.  Does each team member have roughly the same level of expertise?

5.  If team members need to consult one another for ideas or solutions, are such consultations limited in terms of the level of creative or problem-solving input required?

6.  Can the costs of team activities be easily divided among team members according to an equal investment in time and effort?

If you answered, “Yes” to all these questions, your primary game is likely Baseball, in which you pool everyone’s results.



2.  Sequencing Tasks like a Football Team Indicator


Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions about your company or division:

1.  Can each project or your work process be segmented into phases with a clear beginning and ending point?

2.  Do the phases occur in a clear sequence, chronologically:  i.e., one after the other with little overlap?

3.  Can one person or group be held responsible for each phase?

4.  Does each person have the capability to specialize in her or his given phase?

5.  Do team members like being part of a team while still doing their own thing?

If you answered, “Yes” to all these questions, Football is likely your fundamental reality or your primary game.



3.  Acting as a Unit like a Basketball Team Indicator


Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions about your company or division:

1.  Is your work or project different and distinct, requiring separate analysis, planning, and implementation?

2.  Is each project an integrated whole, unable to be divided into clear-cut phases or specific sequences of tasks?

3.  Does each project benefit by having several team members participate in the analysis, planning and implementation?

4.  Do team members have roughly equal levels of expertise either in the same field or in different fields that are necessary to a project?

5.  Do customers feel better knowing that more than one person with different skills and expertise will be working together with them at the same time?

6.  Can team members coordinate their schedules and handle the logistics of working together productively?

7.  Do team members prefer working on tasks with others?

If you answered, “Yes” to all these questions, your primary game is likely Basketball, in which you act as a reciprocal, cross-functional unit.

I trust that it is evident as to how important it is for a leader to know, given the task at hand which of the three organizational games is in play at that moment and therefore which business or team process is needed for that task.

This of course will enable you to use the right process to drive productivity, revenues and profit.

I wish you every success in so doing.

For more on this topic, we recommend the following


The Jays, the Giants and the Lakers

A Systemic Model, Analysis, and Prescription
Effective Organizational Leadership

Click Here For Video and Full Description


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