Join Amy Edmondson for an in-depth discussion in this video Reaching across boundaries, part of Leading and Working in Teams.
- Teaming often means reaching across boundaries, organizational silos, locations to get things done. Let's take a look at an example of teaming across boundaries to accomplish the seemingly impossible. On August 5, 2010, more than half a million tons of rock caved in suddenly, completely blocking the entrance to the San Jose Copper Mine in Chile. Mining accidents are unfortunately very common, but this one was unprecedented for several reasons: the distance of the miners from the Earth's surface, the sheer number of miners trapped, and the hardness of the rock, just to name a few.
33 men were buried alive 700 meters under rock harder than granite. Estimates of the possibility of finding anyone alive were put at less than one percent. Most of you will already know that within 70 days, all 33 miners were rescued. What happened during those 70 days was an extraordinary teaming effort involving hundreds of individuals spanning physical, organizational, cultural, geographic, and professional boundaries. These hundreds of people came together from different disciplines, organizations, and even industries from mining, geology, oil, logistics, from the public sectors, from the private sectors.
They teamed up, experimented, and learned fast from failure. Now, you may never face a challenge quite that dramatic, but the chances are good that even today, you're having to span departmental and other boundaries to get the work done. What does it take to work together effectively across boundaries? It takes an ability to build great work relationships on the fly. How do you quickly get up to speed so that you can work well with someone new? It requires a blend of asking and telling, but start by asking.
Ask three essential questions: what are you you hoping to achieve, what knowledge and background do you bring, and what obstacles do you face. Then, in return, share with them your own answers to the same three questions. In essence, teaming works best when we're curious, when we find out the aspirations and skills of our colleagues. Don't assume you know what you need to know about them. Ask questions. This can be done very quickly, and it makes a huge difference in breaking down the silos that divide us.