The Coming Demise of Teamwork
By Paul Rux, Ph.D.
This short essay explores the causes, effects, and likely response to the coming demise of teamwork because of the growing lack of job tenure. Daniel Pink forecast this growing trend toward solo practitioners instead of teams in his classic 2001 study Free Agent Nation. He foresaw how relentless changes in technology and corporate profits would combine to reduce workers en masse to the level of “office temps.” It is hard to build teamwork around “office temps” who constantly come and go. Yes, the pop culture of sports lauds teamwork, but this should not blind us to emerging workplace realities.
For instance, Jerold Apps forecast the demise of tenure – and with it teamwork – in education in his 1994 classic Leadership for the Emerging Age. Today, 75% of college teachers are adjuncts, “throw-away” widgets (Huffington Post, 2013). With such loss of tenure, Apps foresaw the collapse of teamwork. Instead of trying to build teamwork, Apps advised keying on and coaching individuals with special innovative talents as the way to gain competitive edge in the future. Forget teamwork. Instead, coach creative “stars.”
Apps, Jerold (1994). Leadership for the Emerging Age: Transforming practice in Adult and Continuing Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kingkade, Tyler (2013). AAUP: Don’t Cut Adjunct Hours to Avoid Obamacare Requirements. Huffington Post, May 15, 2013.
Pink, Daniel (2001). Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself. New York: Warner Books.
Tuckman, Bruce (1965). Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.
Paul Rux, Ph.D. (Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin - Madison) is a lifelong professional educator. He also consults on management (www.paulrux.net) . He serves on the State Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Business / Wisconsin, which lobbies for over 13,500 small business owners in the state. He is a member of the World Future Society and Rotary International. Dr. Rux also serves on the Business Intelligence Board of the Chief Learning Officer journal. He lives in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, an ex-urb of Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital.