It is most appropriate today to ask this question. In Canada, today is the day we remember the commitment and sacrifice of those who serve our country in times of peace and war. While we may have differing viewpoints on the value or necessity of war and conflict, we can all be thankful that there are those willing to serve on our behalf.
We were in the 'Cold War', and technology and science were going to help us keep our country safe from the perceived enemy. We needed to put a man on the moon first, we needed to have a strong healthy economy so we could show the world how much better democracy was for its citizens.
We all had a common enemy.
It kept us focused.
In their latest book That Used to be Us - How America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back authors Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum discuss the impact of globalization on the American economy, and on the transfer of the source of much of the innovation that has occurred.
Early in the pages, the following quote jumped out at me.
"We are going to do a terrible thing to you. We are going to deprive you of an enemy." Georgi Arbatov, Soviet expert on the United States, speaking at the end of the Cold War (p13)Having a common enemy allows a nation to channel energy, resources and passion towards a common goal.
Friedman and Mandelbaum's book describes in great detail what can happen to a nation if you remove the common enemy from the equation.
The nation's focus turns inward.
Becomes self serving.
Creates internal conflicts.
Just like a team without a sense of purpose.
Without a common purpose and vision, team meetings become a collection of personal agendas. The team bogs down, unable to do anything new or innovative since everybody has a different idea of what should be done.
Now I'm not suggesting that you create an enemy in order to galvanize your team, there are enough of them out there.
If you are in business, there is always another organization that would be delighted to take your customers away from you through offering better products, better service, or more value.
If you are in a non profit organization, then you typically exist to support a cause you deem valuable. Your enemies can be apathy, disorganization, lack of focus and a litany of other things.
Sometimes the enemy is lack of vision.
Anything that would come against achieving your vision and mission can be considered the enemy. As a leader, it's your job to ensure everyone on your team understands why the team exists, and each member needs to know how they contribute.
Your team needs purpose to thrive.
Purpose is the single-most important factor in developing a high performing team.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead
What is your 'enemy'? What are the things that are worth fighting for?
PS. If you are a veteran... Thank you.
Does your team need an IT Vision statement?