Team Leader Pt II – Lessons from Old Tailem Town

Prefer to watch on video rather than read?  Click here – 4 mins, with captions.

I was on my oldest child’s school excursion to Old Tailem Town recently (which, by the way, is pretty freaky, which is why the kids love it…)

As I watched the teachers do their (awesome) thing with us bunch of volunteer helpers, the thought occurred to me that what we have here is a great example of how the Team Leader role works.

Team Leader Role

In a previous post on this, I went through how moving both visually and practically from this:

to this…

…can make everything make more sense and run a bit more smoothly.

Olde Times

So let’s go to Old Tailem Town.  We all know that on a school excursion, the Teacher is the one who takes accountability for the safety, then the education of the children.   We might draw it like this:

The above works fine in a normal, predictable classroom setting.  But take us out in public, add in the enthusiasm of the kids, throw in some seriously intriguing ye olde towne props…and we’ve upped our complexity quite a bit.

So, we naturally do some groups…

…which makes it all a bit more manageable.  But not quite.   Because, as the accountable person on an excursion, to ask the teacher to handle all the various complexities that are going to pop up, while ensuring safety as well as the objectives of the day are complete…is going to need some help.

Enter the parent volunteers….

By each group having one person who understands the work of the day, who is capable and trustworthy, and can provide direction, guidance, and support to the group – we have significantly improved out ability for the day to be safe and the purpose completed.

And we were all given excellent sheets with our groups, the instructions for the day, safety requirements…everything we needed to support our groups to do what the Teacher had planned for them.  Which meant we could do our job!

The Lessons

Now…at work, it’s not a parent-child relationship.  So it’s crucial that the lesson here is not seen as ‘treat frontline workers like children’, or ‘treat Team Leaders like parents’.  Instead, the lessons are:

  • Not all situations need a Team Leader.  But depending on numbers, complexity, location….these factors can suggest that a Team Leader might be worthwhile.
  • Accountability does not shift from the Manager (the Teacher).  The Team Leaders (Parent Volunteers) are there as assistants-to the leadership part of the Manager’s job. 
  • Team Leaders do not sit between the Manager and the Frontline, they support the Frontline in doing their work.
  • Team Leaders need to have a little extra capability to see the whole day, or week, or shift.  They see what the plans of the team require, they observe what’s going on, then direct, guide or support as needed.  And they might be doing the work at the same time.

Bringing it Home

All of this seems obvious right? 

If we’re looking for common sense, or natural organisation designs, look to areas where safety is paramount.  School excursions, surgery, military (in battle), air-traffic control…such situations have evolved methods of organising and communicating that work because it really matters.

Without a paramount reason to get the org design right, it’s easy to fluff around on PowerPoint according to the latest fashion, instead of looking at the needs of the work, the people and the conditions.

Use industries where the design matters to arrive at common sense designs for your own situation which might not be as intense.

Which will hopefully allow things to not be so intense!

Now…over to you.

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