10 Is Your Team Ready to Do Big Things?

Like the Colorado and Green Rivers that John Wesley Powell and his crew were on during their exploration of the Grand Canyon—many rivers eventually find their way to bigger bodies of water. Those of us who have been to an ocean know there are very good reasons why in certain locations signs are posted warning, “Danger! No Swimming.” On the surface the water often has waves that roll in and splash noisily on the beach. The invitation to jump in for a swim and play in the surf lights up the faces of those who walk by.

But danger lurks in those inviting waters.

From the beach the water appears to be coming into shore where every swimmer ultimately wants to go. In such places, however, if you jump in the water, your life is imperiled. Hidden underneath the surface is a riptide that overpowers even the strongest swimmers: a massive current of water pulling everything in its grip out to sea. The invisible, powerful force of energy puts you in a fight for your life.

To varying degrees, every team faces this same dynamic within the organization it operates. Unsuspecting and well-intentioned team members commit to do big things and enthusiastically jump into their work. But the system around them, the most powerful of which is the company culture (“this is how we do things around here”), grabs and overwhelms them like a riptide. Just as in the ocean, even the strongest are powerless in such currents.

The well-documented riptide of wrongdoing at organizations ...

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