Parallel play is a term used on toddlers aged 1 – 2 yrs old, whereby many children come together to play, but are in fact, each playing on their own and doing their own things. They acknowledge the fact that they are in a group, but there are no interactions, except of the occasional outburst of cries, typically when one child snatches a toy of another, i.e. “they step on each others toes”
In corporations, big or small, there is a strong tendency for teams to engage in parallel play too, unless there is a strong counter-balance and an intentional will for non-parallel play, i.e. team work, to happen.
Team that operates in silos, with their own goals and KPIs. They have their own methodology of doing things, they protect their way of doing things, and build up barriers for outside intervention and scrutiny.
Let's take a look at the goals of various teams at a Creative agency:
Accounts team: Charge with managing the client relationship and maximizing profits for the agency, i.e. More billable work, better yet, more billable high-margin work
Creative team: Winning creative awards around the world, i.e. the fancier the idea the better
Production team: Get it out of the door as quickly, i.e. it needs to be done quickly, with most efficient use of resources
Now, let's take a look at the conflicts:
More billable high-margin work might involve a lot of production resource
Fancier ideas doesn't always equate to billable high-margin work (let alone work that meets client's objectives)
Get it out of the door doesn't always produce quality the client will be satisfied
Now, that's only 1 way to look at silos.
There are countless ways where teams within the same organisation have conflicting interests and only appear to be cooperating.
Moving away from parallel play is difficult but it can be done.
The will to get it done
Working together requires a will – the will of all senior management – that then flows down to the mid-level managers and so on. It needs to be a concerted effort from the top down, otherwise, each team would not play ball and in fact, raise their guard against other teams's "tampering".
The regular checks
I suggest bi-weekly status checks in the onset, but then can gradually become monthly and then quarterly checks on how each teams are sharing information, any cooperation projects, etc
The celebration as a team
When things go well, celebrate it as a team, huddle up and bring everyone on board – all hands on deck – to give everyone who had a part to play a sense of satisfaction. It is after all a team effort in almost all kinds of project success.
Are you tired of parallel play in your organization?
Do you want to have meaningful collaboration that will lead to breakthroughs?
Share your thoughts in the comments, I love to hear from you.
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"Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.