This statement, first uttered by ex-Spurs and Barcelona striker Steve Archibald, has once again received an airing alongside the current England cricket team woes. It is a cynical sentiment, highlighting a belief that individuals are fundamentally selfish. It makes an assumption that victory is not the result of cohesive team effort. It suggests, instead, that victory brings the victors together in celebration, creating the illusion of team spirit.

I take exception to this cynicism. Camaraderie is certainly highest when celebrating success, but in team sports and in business, success depends on team spirit.

In a business sense, victory can be defined as achieving the business objectives, targets or goals. It is impossible to see how this can be done without great team work from the outset. In my view, there are three main reasons why a business performs better when it manages a team approach effectively.

  1. Multi-skilled. A well-picked team delivers a diversity of skills and experience. Together they can respond intelligently to diverse and complex challenges, problems, and opportunities.
  2. Improved productivity. Individuals who trust and rely on each other take responsibility for their own allotted tasks. With well-defined and measurable team objectives, this means that “many hands make light work”.
  3. Improved profitability. Efficient teams achieve significant gains in speed, quality and productivity for certain multi-faceted projects.

There is no doubt that poorly conceived and poorly managed teams create more ill will and disappointing performance than they are worth. There are also some tasks much better suited to completion by an individual. But what is not in doubt, something that we have direct experience of here at Total Systems, is that effective teams deliver significant achievements.

It is true that defeat can destroy a fragile or illusory team spirit. And victory does indeed make a team feel better, justified and more confident. But I believe that a strong team spirit contributes more to victory than vice versa.