At the heart of a resilient workgroup is a shared narrative.
A group gains strength from a common understanding of who they are. On the most superficial level a shared identity is just a label. A sense of identity deepens as people when a group shares a sense of their history, their values, and their mission. The more of these qualities that group members share with one another, the better they can respond to adversity, change, and surprises.
Resiliency is the capacity both to endure hardship and to generate effective responses to adversity. In a dynamic and uncertain age—economically, socially, and politically—encounters with hard times are inevitable. No organization can buffer itself from the currents of the time, but any organization can increase its capacity to thrive.
The greatest resource available to contemporary organizations is the knowledge, talent, and energy of its people. Those resources are resident within group members, but they having access to those resources is another matter. Strained relationships get in the way, creating roadblocks in dialogue among people. Civil, respectful relationships smooth the pathways among people so that they are bit more likely to call upon one another in need. They are more likely to integrate their collective knowledge and talent to address issues that are thrust upon them.
Good working relationships are a starting point, but there are additional elements that increase workgroups` capacity to coordinate their resources. A shared narrative brings with it a common understanding of how the world works. For example, a story of the group`s origin, the motivations of its founders, and the process through which it gained a foothold in the rough and tumble world of organizational or business life convey assumptions about how causality, personal responsibility, and common interests. One group`s narrative may describe its very existence as resting upon inspired acts of genius of a single founder while another may depict the group as resulting from the coordinated action of people with a shared interest. For example, the Occupy movement of recent years attributed its emergence as entirely arising from group process while Apple Inc gave a central role to the individual genius of its founder. The Occupy movement had no tolerance for any individual pre-empting its transparent shared decision making while Apple Inc tolerated a lot of bad behavior from its founder. These two organizations had very different narratives.
Organizations can survive and thrive with a variety of narratives. No one story fits all. But I propose that a workgroup will have more ready access to its intrinsic resources when group members have a shared sense of that narrative. With widespread agreement that shared, transparent decision making makes things happen in the world, the members will align themselves with that model more readily. If they agree that a single inspired leader is the source of all effective action, they will arrange things to support that action.
A shared narrative is the foundation for supporting effective action in adversity.
Can you articulate your workgroup`s story?