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  • Writer's pictureKate Earle

The 411 on Teaming

In a recent post Teaming: Why should we care we shared our perspective on why teams matter more now than ever. Let’s take a closer look at the concept and practice of teaming, including what it is and how it's being used.

What Is Teaming?

Think of teaming as “teamwork on the fly.” Teaming doesn’t draw its inspiration from sports teams that have a consistent set of players, coaches, and support personnel who work together on a long-term basis. Rather, teaming resembles a movie production team. Directors, actors, and crew come together based on their expertise, stay together to complete the film, then separate and move on to other projects.

Which strategy is more effective? It depends on the circumstances.

If the purpose of the team is to work together indefinitely, building on team member expertise and producing consistent results over time, the traditional team model is an appropriate approach.

If the purpose of the team is to address a sudden imperative where the needs can change in a blink, the critical skill sets may vary from day to day, and the circumstances are a moving target, teaming can bring about astonishing results that a more stable team could not achieve.

When you think of work that’s complex and unpredictable, or when you need to solve a big, one-of-a-kind problem, it’s time to consider teaming.

Where Does Teaming Happen?

Teaming is happening all around us...although sometimes it takes a trained eye to notice it. To help your eyes adjust, here are three examples of teaming in action and the incredible results it yields.

The Chilean Mine Collapse

On August 5, 2010, a massive collapse at the San José copper mine left 33 men trapped half a mile below some of the hardest rock in the world. They were able to shelter in a small refuge with about enough food for two men for 10 days. At first, there was no workable solution and the miners seemed doomed. But after 10 weeks of collaboration involving hundreds of individuals from different professions, companies, sectors, and nations, all 33 miners were rescued. This is a dramatic example of the power of effective teaming.

Any Time, at Any Hospital

Did you know that the average hospitalized patient is seen by 60 or so different caregivers throughout their stay? And since hospitals never close and patients can arrive at any moment for unique and potentially complicated reasons, teams have to be assembled on the fly. Healthcare professionals come together from different shifts with different specialties and areas of expertise. They may not even know each other's name, but they have to work together for the patient to get great care. When they do, a life can be saved. If they don't, the results can be tragic.


Yes, this is a major shift in tone, but it’s an example we can all relate to. Think about all the moving parts that have to come together for a wedding to be successful. The invitations, the ceremony, the photographer, the venue, the caterer, the band, the event staff, the transportation, and other details result in an event that is as unique as the couple getting married. Chances are, most if not all of the different players have never met and yet they need to work together in order to make the day unforgettable in a good (not disastrous) way. That’s teaming.

We've All Lived It

A real benefit of teaming is that even though the team disbands after the project is complete or the challenge has been resolved, the lessons learned continue to provide value.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a timely example.

The pandemic has been the most challenging set of circumstances we’ve experienced in recent history. Every aspect of our lives has been affected. Think about it—hospitals, schools, and businesses needed to find ways to continue to function. Leisure activities—dining out, going to the theater, attending sporting events, visiting parks—had to pivot in order to survive. Something as simple as buying eggs and paper towels became a challenge we needed to navigate. And the medical and scientific community had to come together in an unprecedented spirit of collaboration to roll out a vaccine in a fraction of the time it normally takes.

The pandemic pushed us to think differently, be humble and curious, and reach beyond tradition to find innovative ways to keep moving forward. While we may reduce our reliance on virtual platforms and solutions as restrictions lessen, we now know we can keep things running, if not optimally, at least well enough so that the wheels on the bus continue to turn. We can meet effectively without being in physical proximity to one another. We can reduce the risk of any kind of viral infection by masking up in public spaces.

In short, we have lived through a massive teaming event without even knowing it—AND WE’RE STILL HERE. The steps we took to keep our lives going during the pandemic are countless and ongoing. If we’re smart, we will continue to apply, refine, and benefit from the lessons learned from this global teaming experience


It’s clear that teaming is not meant to replace traditional, long-term teams. But when a need arises that goes beyond the capabilities of an existing team—when you have to bring together a group of people with wide-ranging skill sets to accomplish a challenging task—teaming can offer a structure to accomplish great things.

Is there a situation where you think teaming would work within your organization? We’d love to hear about it!

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