My perseption on Relationship between teamwork and team learning

Team learning is one of Peter Senge’s discussions on “learning organization” in “The Fifth
Discipline.”  He focused on "team learning" with the objective of increasing people’s ability to see the “larger picture” outside of their own perspectives.

We all experience being a member of a team, group, organization, work place, or an educational setting. In some cases one or two people invite others with common ideas to get together and make a team. Sometimes one joins a team that has already been set up. In the first scenario, the new team needs to build themselves from scratch and experience learning together. In the second scenario a person become part of a developmental process. But in both cases, members need to learn, go through pain, enjoyment, training, dialogue, gaining each other’s trust, overcoming conflicts that inevitably arrive and finding solutions to solve these conflicts.  If the team is strong and engage in dialogue the conflict will not break them.

In both cases team leader (coach) plays a big role of bringing out “collective potential” of the members. Finding potential/s of each person is not enough. The coach has to be able to foster and use the potentials and abilities of all the members together towards a higher performance.

If all the members of the team, with the same skills, or different levels and degrees, work hard and take feeling of ownership of the team and feel accountable, then victory or success is expected. Most of the success stories come from team member feeling accountable.

A successful team is only possible when there is purpose and a common vision because a common purpose creates the drive and the feelings of belonging. When members of a group, organization, work place, educational setting work together for a common goal, every single member should be held accountable for her/his performance. That is why I think building trust, finding the best way to communicate, rather than being passive aggressive about issues, and accepting accountability are the most important parts of team work.

Senge says: “The fundamental characteristic of the relatively unaligned team is wasted energy. Individuals may work extraordinarily hard, but their efforts do not efficiently translate to team effort” (1990, p. 234)

He believes that “Team learning” starts with dialogue, the capacity of members of a team to “suspend assumptions” and have honest conversations with each other.


In my opinion there are two categories of team building, one is a team based on a specific aim where all the members have the same skill, and another one is a group with different skills working towards one goal. In either case, there has to be a vision.

Senge says: “...the process of aligning and developing the capacity of a team to create the results its members truly desire. It builds on the discipline of developing shared vision. It also builds on personal mastery, for talented teams are made up of talented individuals.” (Senge, p.236)


I have experienced a great deal of working in a team, so I would like to share my experience with you. At my workplace we have a team called MDT ( Multi Disciplinary Team). This team is made up of: social workers, facilitator, psychologists, an MD, nurses, activity coordinators, drivers, program aids, nutritionist (and food service members), physical therapist, occupational therapists, program director, massage therapist, and caregivers. All of these professionals are on different levels and do very different things, but as a team, we are all working to help each client maintain the highest level of functioning. We do this by including educational, social, and physical activities in the client’s daily lives and providing them with a safe, secure, comfortable, caring and loving environment. The MDT team works hard to reach our vision and mission statement by assisting the clients of the facility, who have physical and psychological disabilities, such as dementia spectrum, depression, anxiety etc…all of which limit these client’s ability to function independently or semi independently.

As soon as one of the above departments or professional personnel are not doing their job or delay in their responsibilities, stop communicating with other departments, a dysfunction occurs. I wonder if this is because true team learning has not taken place and most of us are just working as a disjoined part of a team rather than a cohesive unit with different responsibilities. I would like to use some of Senge’s solutions at my work place to improve the team learning process and minimize conflict by creating a pathway to dialogue.



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