Have you ever experienced how much energy it takes, if your team doesn’t “speak with one voice”? If your team only pays lip-service to your strategy, but some team members still hold (and voice!) strong opinions of their own?

A road-cycling team can show us the effectiveness of being aligned, quite literally. When driving against a head wind, a team of cyclists will try to cycle in a tight single file line, all closely behind each other. The reason is obvious: by staying out of the wind, all team members save a lot of energy, up to 40%. The pole position is rotated, everybody takes their turn being front rider. Because of the energy saved, the team as a whole will now move much faster. All team members benefit; the weakest driver will not take pole position very long, he will need more time to rest. But also the strongest rider now has an opportunity to rest every once in a while.

A number of conditions have to be met to make this work. First of all, the team needs a common goal. If half the team wants to do an easy recovery ride, while the other half is doing interval training, this will not work! Second, driving so closely together is dangerous, therefore clear rules and signals exist to indicate and avoid road obstacles. Then, the level of experience should be more or less the same. The more the team has worked out together, the easier it is to drive in a tight file, to rotate positions, etc. Finally, all team members have to fully trust each other. They have to be 100% certain that they will get the right signal if there is this dangerous pothole in the road! If not, everybody will be breaking file continuously to check for themselves if the road ahead is clear.

Now back to the management team, the project team, or any other team. Wouldn’t it be nice if each team member would defend your strategy when challenged? If everybody who stepped out of a meeting, spoke with “one voice” about the agreements of that meeting? If different team members supported each other when challenged, in stead of pointing to each other? Looking at the cycling example, how would you translate the conditions to the corporate world?