As a corporate trainer, I have in more than few occasions handled the module on Building Teams in the 5-day mandatory course that we conduct for our first level leaders (read: supervisors).
It lead me to ask the question: is team building a foreign concept not innate to Filipinos? Is this another Western management concept that we are trying so hard to inject to our already ‘damaged culture’? If it is not, then what is the Filipino equivalent of the word teambuilding?
To find out the answer, I tried to relate the four phases of teambuilding as espoused by the American Psychologist and one of the pioneers in the study of group dynamics Bruce Tuckman (1965) to typical Filipino interaction or relationship-building. The four stages, in Tuckman’s theory are: forming, storming, norming and performing.
Stage 1. Forming. When teams first get together, members are generally cautious and uncertain about many things. People explore, dabble, try something. During the forming period everyone tries their best to look ahead and think about all the things that need to be done.
In Filipino social interactions, this is the stage where group members know nothing definite about one another, therefore, I call this the walang alam stage. Team members will start with pakilala, or introducing themselves. Oftentimes, this stage is full of pakitang-tao (deception or putting the best foot forward) so as not to get an early negative perception from people one works with. Just like in courtship (panliligaw), the relationship can be described as tricky and stressful.
The new member of the team, viewed as taga-labas (outsider) will be forced to interact with the others (pakikisalamuha), else he will be called mayabang (proud) or worse, branded as hindi atin (forever an outsider). The best way to survive this stage is for the new member to fit in (pakikibagay), sometimes allowing oneself to make a fool of himself just to be considered one of the boys.
If a task is done quite right but without the expected cursory consultation with the oldies, the newbie is thus called nagmamarunong (pretentious).
Stage 2. Storming. Inevitably the process begins to heat up under the pressures of work and conflicting perspectives. People jockey for influence. Patient and impatient people clash. Trust is tested, and confusions around goals and roles begin to surface. If there are heavy deadlines, this stage can be quite tense.
I call this stage nagkaka-alaman (moment of truth or revelation). Real characters will surface at this stage as group interaction become intense. Moment of truth here suggests that the honeymoon stage of pakikibagay ends, and the pakikipagtunggali (confrontation) begins. Here, people tend to lose their patience (nawawalan ng pasensya) over another person’s idiosyncracies (ka-ulol-an or topak). If not immediately remedied, these interactions become an everyday occurence of pakikipag-tagisan (competition) and pakikipag-tunggali (battle).
The outsider, if not yet fully welcomed to the team, will be blamed for masyadong nakiki-alam (nosy) and will be told to mind his own business (wag kang makialam).
Stage 3. Norming. As people get to know each other, they reconcile and agree on things like decision-making processes, resources, timing, quality standards. A “norm” is something everyone understands. Norms are the formal and informal rules that make up the operating system of productive work.
This is the Alam na! (everyone knows) stage where group members have in fact understood and accepted each other’s unique personalities (again, topak) while agreeing on how to approach such diversity (pagkaka-iba) the moment conflict erupts.
Pakikisama (getting along with) is the operative word at this stage. More intense than mere pakikibagay (fitting in), pakikisama is really showing that you care for the group. Team members expect you to give in (bigayan), agree (pakikisang-ayon), and take sides (kampihan) with the team.
This I think is also the most delicate stage. When people in a group become very comfortable at this stage, groupthink (iisang utak or saradong pananaw) develops. The lack of disagreements may allow people to risk it by doing unethical activities (pagkukulang or pagmamalabis), by covering up each other’s mistakes (pagtatakip), and more dangerously, by closing their collective mind to other people’s ideas.
Stage 4. Performing. The final stage of team development involve using all the experience and understanding with each other to get results for each other and the organization.
I was surprised to find out that the Filipino way of interaction is deeply rooted in what we know: walang alam, nagkaka-alaman, alam na, and finally the may pakialam (concerned) stage.
Team members become very involved (pakikilahok) with the organization. Teammates become friends (kaibigan) and family (kapamilya). They share with one’s joys and sufferings (pakikiramay) while being ready to fight with what the group stands for (pakikipaglaban). At this point, teams (katipunan) become kapatiran (brotherhood), samahan (alliance) and kilusan (movement).
The ultimate level of this social interaction is when people in the group has accepted and tolerated each other’s diversity (of belief, of ways, and of thinking) while agreeing to peacefully disagree. The outsider (taga-labas and kanila) becomes taga-loob and atin yan).
The team becomes even more effective the moment it withdraws the atin-kanila (ours/yours) mentality and embrace the tayong lahat (everybody)attitude. That’s win-win. Lahat panalo.