"None of us is as smart as all of us"

  • Published
  • By By Maj. Trace B. Steyaert
  • 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron
The old adage "none of us is as smart as all of us" suggests that individual effort may not be as intelligent or effective as team effort. Our recent success with the Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection is testimony to the powerful results of intelligent and focused teamwork.

Through numerous demanding nuclear operational readiness exercises, subsequent hot-washes and lessons learned, the wing trained as a team and was prepared for this inspection. Individual functional experts synergized as cohesive teams within the 509th Bomb Wing and contributed enormously to our NORI excellent rating.

In any large undertaking, groups are necessary to bring a variety of insight and know-how required for success. Additionally, groups offer a broader range of alternate solutions and experiences to challenging issues than individuals do. In groups, infeasible solutions are easily disputed and synergistic brainstorming and collaborative efforts can flourish because individuals in the group aim to find the best solutions as a team. As part of a team, no individual bears the full weight of responsibility for the outcome of the endeavor.

Whether military organizations are large or small, success often depends upon forming a cohesive group out of talented individuals. Peak performance teams are able to bring out exemplary talents in each member, create efficiencies, prepare for eventualities, synchronize activities, communicate on the fringes of each other's abilities, and operate with a unique single-mindedness of purpose.

What counts more than individual genius is the sharing of information and the mutual stimulation that result from working together. For example, air transportation specialists with varying functional knowledge and experiences working together to solve a transportation problem can gain further knowledge and understanding by working together as a team. Two people will have greater diversity of thought processes, training and experiences than one does.

In addition, a sample study of 60 light infantry platoons, squad members' perceptions of team leadership cohesion were significantly related (at both individual and unit levels) to their unity, organizational identification, job involvement, task motivation, career intent and perceptions of unit effectiveness. Further results suggest team cohesion was directly related to ratings of performance in simulated combat.

A military's organizational productivity, quality and morale improve when teams are utilized. Among the benefits are:

1. Teams produce a greater quantity of ideas and information than individuals acting alone.
2. Teams improve understanding and acceptance among individuals involved in the process.
3. Teams create higher motivation and performance levels than individuals acting alone.
4. Teams offset personal biases and blind spots that hinder the decision process.
5. Teams sponsor more innovative and risk-taking decision making.

Author Michael Hensey states effective teams have at least these certain characteristics in common:

1. The purpose is known and understood by all group members.
2. Communication is open and direct enough for the group to be able to honestly discuss almost any problem it faces, including personal performance.
3. Sufficient leadership is available in the group, including the designated leader/manager who provides supporting leadership for special tasks such as coaching and quality assurance.
4. To the degree necessary, the group has an organization structure and member roles that are functional, coordinated and known to all who need to understand them.
5. Adequate resources exist either inside or outside the group for it to perform its functions well. This includes member skills, tools and systems, and facilities and budgets.
6. Synergy is the breakthrough quality that makes a group greater than the sum of its parts. It rests on the tangible support given to one member by another.

Traditionally, psychologists and management theorists believe in a connection between team cohesion and team effectiveness. Highly cohesive teams tend to be more successful and efficient in problem solving. These teams develop close coordination and relationships among their members which helps the team to persevere in the face of challenging times.

One of the most consistent findings on decision making and performance is that the best groups perform better than the best individuals, because groups are able to take advantage of the collective wisdom and insight of multiple individuals, while individual judgments reflect the narrower insights and skills of just one person.

We can now safely say that the 509th Bomb Wing was successful with our NORI because we came together as a cohesive team, focused on achieving specific goals and professionally executed our mission as trained.