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Mathematical Formula for great teamwork

Published:Monday | August 3, 2015 | 2:08 PM

Mathematical formula for great teamwork

At school, I learned the life-saving BOMDAS formula without which solving algebra problems would be impossible.

Here is an example:

Solve: 7 + (6 + 3) x 5 -4 / 2

Step 1: Work out what is in the bracket first: 7+ 9 x 5 - 4 / 2

Step 2: Then do the multiplication and division: 7 +45 - 2

Step 3: Then do the addition: 52 - 2

Step 4: And finally the subtraction: 50

Answer = 50

I want to explore with you its application in the realm of teamwork and healthy relationships. Applying the BOMDAS rules creatively could help address some of the challenges that produce a lack of cooperation in groups at a time when effective teamwork is critical for success.


The brackets represent both inclusion and exclusion. They indicate that the things within the brackets have something in common that set them apart from things outside. It also dictates that the things within the brackets should be given similar treatment.

Let's now take the leap from the abstract to the real-life challenge of working cohesively with others.

The first concept is 'Belonging'.

One common problem in dysfunctional teams is the failure of members to identify with the team. They don't see themselves as being part of the whole that is bonded by common objectives and shared goals.

The brackets say - there is a bond that ties us together. The on-the-ground reality is that many speak of their teams in terms of 'they' instead of 'we'.

Other telltale signs that the brackets are meaningless include the fact that team successes are not celebrated as personal successes. It is like a disgruntled defender coming home to report that he won the match. From the bench he does not see himself as belonging in the team.

Do a bit of investigative work over the next few days and listen carefully to the dialogue of colleagues - your team and other groups. See how often you can detect pride in the accomplishments of the group to which the individual belongs.

In cohesive and functional teams, the pride comes from just being a part of the team. Members champion the cause of the team as a whole and each member individually. Team member Jenny's graduation is ours. In a real sense, it might be because we helped so much with her research projects and proofreading her submissions!

That is the spirit that fuels high-performing teams and tightly connected groups.

Meanwhile, back in dysfunctional land, Desmond has been like a zombie since he was passed over for the role of team leader. He might not openly tear down what Martha puts forward, but his lack of interest cannot be missed. It is also noticeable that people who were close to Desmond and who felt that he should have received the promotion are not engaged. The separation is not only mental, as they have now started to eat as a clique in a corner of the lunchroom.

This team is on a downward spiral and the impact will soon be evident in their key performance indicators (KPIs).

Unfortunately, it is Martha's responsibility as team leader to solve the problem. She may not have appointed herself, but now it is her job to get the best from her team.

She needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with Desmond. She can share that she has observed that he is not the dynamic, vibrant person of three months ago and she would like to discuss the change. She needs to steer clear of even a hint of accusation with respect to his lack of support.

One strategy that might work well for Martha is for her to find some solution - a role, maybe, that helps Desmond to save face and feel better about himself. Could she identify a discrete part of her responsibility and invite him to take charge of it without weakening her authority?

That could produce the benefit of getting Desmond engaged once more while giving her the opportunity to focus on other areas. Of course, if Desmond messes up, that would provide grounds for another conversation.

Join me this Saturday, August 15 - noon till 6 p.m. for the St Andrew Church of Christ Annual Family Workshop at the Holy Childhood High School. Great line-up of speakers. Totally FREE. Refreshments will be served, courtesy of Wisynco. Theme: 'Sexuality, Legality & Morality - Restoring Family Values'. I share on 'Keys to Kick-start Your Marriage and Keep it Running'. Choose right and ... more.

• Trevor E. S. Smith

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