Microscopes and Telescopes: Pulling Our Teams Into View and Into Focus

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Look at your Team. Look closely. What do you see?

Maybe…
·      Faces around a meeting table
·      Boxes on an organization chart
·      Line items in a budget
·      Cooks in the kitchen
·      Nurses in an Operating Room
·      Friends on the soccer field

No doubt, these are the most visible manifestations of your Team. They are the “things” you see, that you can make sense of, and that you believe participate in a world of influence with you. But is that it? Or is there more to see? It depends on how we look at them.

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What’s that in my water?

Before about 1590, the smallest object one might be able to see with the naked eye would be the width of a human hair. And what a fine world that was! What more could one possibly see, or need to see, smaller than that?

The Dutch Golden Age produced a wealth of advances in art and science, and a father and son team, Hans and Zacharias Janssen, developed the first microscope. And with that, a new universe inside our existing lives became apparent. Critters in our water. Mold spores on our bread. The implications of these new views into everyday life were profound.

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The Long View

Just a few years later and in the same Dutch city as the Janssens, Hans Lippershey was granted a patent for the telescope. Again, a new universe came to life. Mountains on our moon and spots on our Sun became “real” to us. Enemies gathering on a distant mountaintop. [Yes, they had been there the whole time. It was simply that we could see them now. We humans have a decided bias toward believing only that which we see.]

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See your Team in four dimensions

More than just faces around a table or boxes on an org chart, your Team is a complex, dynamic, and unique organism. It deserves to be seen as it is:  messy, sure – but understandable. We can and should stare into this Team so that we can begin to see it for its wonderfulness, for its uniqueness, and for its true utility.

In the coming weeks, we’ll dive deeper into this. At its highest level, we see the Team operating in four lenses (think: the different lenses on your high school microscope. Turn it to its next setting, and suddenly you’re at a different magnification. You’re still looking at the thing on the slide, you’re just seeing a new world open up to your understanding.)


The Quality of Conversation is about:

What’s going on in our minds when we’re with this Team? Questions like:
How well do I know these people?
Can I trust them?
Am I able to be open with them?


The Quality of Relationship is about: 

The BIG things that help individuals relate to each other in the group and create a sense of identity.
Questions like:
What’s the big picture?
What’s acceptable behavior on this Team?
Are we all committed to this?

The Quality of Work is about:

We can examine the activities we engage in every day, our interdependence, and if we are aligned in making progress.
Questions like:
Do I know what my role is?
Are we able to solve problems and make decisions?


The Quality of Outcome is about:

The output and impact we desire. 
Questions like:
Did we accomplish what we set out to do?
Was it worth it?



Back to your Team, that collection of faces looking at you from around the table. Each person likely is having some conscious (or unconscious) internal conversation about how they feel being a part of this Team. Each likely has varying levels of comprehension of the Team’s purpose and rules of the road.  Each is able, to varying degrees, to contribute to the work of the group. And each is helping achieve the desired ends of the team.

Put together, we have a multi-lensed tool to help us see our Team in a way that acknowledges the complex interactions between these spheres.



Those are pretty useful lenses for seeing a rich complexity and vibrant messiness…both within yourself and within the Team.


There’s some cool stuff at the other end of these lenses. We should take a closer look. There’s a whole universe to explore.

2 comments

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Mary
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April 19, 2017 at 10:17 AM delete

Interesting. So simple yet so difficult.

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Bennett Bratt
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April 19, 2017 at 3:10 PM delete

Well said! Simple, difficult, but fascinating, once you try.

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