Magical power of collaborative teamwork

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

We normally discuss local organizations in our application of important leadership characteristics. While doing research this past week, I was intrigued by the facts of a historical incident. The statistics of the event are so enlightening that I felt they should be shared

many times over.

The event was depicted in the 1963 movie, directed by John Sturges, &uot;The Great Escape.&uot; The event was the 1944 escape of 86 POWs from Stalag Luft III. The planned goal was for the escape of 250 prisoners in one night; a goal so daunting that it would require unswerving singular focus and cooperation of 600 men and more than one year of well coordinated work.

The logistical requirements of the task are beyond belief when we consider the circumstance: 4,000 bed slats, 1,370 battens, 1,699 blankets, 52 tables, 1,219 knives, 30 shovels, 600 feet of rope, 1,000 feet of electrical wire, civilian clothes for each planned escapee, papers and identity cards, maps, homemade compasses and survival rations.

All of these things, the disposal of the dirt and work of digging a tunnel 1000 feet long under the watchful eyes of guards.

On the night of March 24, 1944, 220 men prepared to make the escape. The outcome was not what the plan had hoped for. Only 86 men finally managed to escape, and many were recaptured or killed.

Was the operation a success or failure? The answer to that question can be framed in many ways, but the lasting and more important point is the realization of what a committed group of people can accomplish.

John Sturges commented, &uot;Never has the human capacity been stretched to such incredible lengths or shown with as much determination and courage.&uot;

While the endeavors that we pursue in our day-to-day lives do not usually compare, there are lessons that can be gleaned and applied.

Organize efforts around specific and meaningful goals. If the goal is not meaningful to the team, then we must ask why are we doing it?

There is no substitute for good planning. Each member of the team needs to have focus.

The team should understand the value of collaboration. Collaboration requires each team member to see others as critical to overall success and not as competitors.

Such an attitude is essential for the mutual support required in significant endeavors.

Collaboration is a truly multiplicative state of action. It is only in a truly collaborative environment that 1 + 1 = 3; a state we are all striving to achieve in today’s competitive world