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Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began... Read more

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Blowup at Nuclear Command

42This week’s news contains a report that dozens of Air Force officers entrusted with maintaining U.S. nuclear missiles are accused of cheating, or turning a blind eye to cheating, on a competency test. Because it’s nuclear-related, this story is likely to stay in the news cycle for several days.

Whatever the truth turns out to be, it’s a testament to the slow drift away from values that can happen in any organization. It’s interesting because there’s no doubt that at the nuclear base in question, as for most government and corporate offices in America, there will be a poster on a wall somewhere that says “Our Values”. These values are invariably excellent, usually including things like honesty, transparency, trust, integrity and customer service.

What actually happens, of course, it that we soon find out “how it really is” when we join an organization. One of the old hands will brief us, or just as often, the ethic of “how it really is” is palpable and very obvious – we can feel it in the air. Occasional blast emails and lectures from leadership do nothing to change this; in fact, they serve as reminders that leadership is out of touch, wants to stay out of touch, and doesn’t know or care “how it really is”.

Often, organizations don’t realize how far they’ve strayed until something very bad happens and they discover just how much they have drifted from their values. That’s when you get an Enron collapse, a investment banking crisis or a scandal at a nuclear command center. The time to make the investment in people was before the crisis – now it’s too late.

After the inevitable political finger-pointing and villain-finding from the nuclear competency test scandal settles down, hopefully the real challenge will be addressed at a higher conceptual level. The problem is not bad people, but bad leadership and lack of investment in reality. Every team needs to get away at least once a year, with their leaders, in order to look at “how it really is” and to practically rehearse and demonstrate their real values. Without that sanity check, and under the pressures of work and the everyday, a slow drift toward danger is inevitable – and the edge of the cliff is unpredictable.

Far from being hocus-pocus or “touchy-feely”, and if done in the right way, practical team development focused on productivity and operational readiness is a matter of simple survival.

If you are wondering how to keep work teams aligned with organizational values, give me a call on 202.257.5593. We aren’t consultants, so all advice is free.

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John Kolm

About John Kolm

Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer.

Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began in 1993. Driven by frustration with the team development options then available to business and government, and with encouragement from early clients, they applied their academic training and practical leadership experience to build the unique approach to team productivity improvement that eventually became Team Results. The company grew rapidly, expanded to a wholly US-owned branch in the United States in 2005, and now operates as a very successful business in both hemispheres.

In 2004 John and Peter wrote the global bestseller “Crocodile Charlie and the Holy Grail” (Penguin, available on Amazon.com), consolidating ten years of work with peak clients into a compelling story about team productivity, leadership in business and government, and happiness at work. The book has been re-published in seven languages and fourteen countries, and a sequel is in the works. John is also the author of numerous articles and papers on team dynamics in the modern workplace, some of which can be found in the News Room at www.teamresultsusa.com .

John is qualified in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, and in mathematics and statistics from the U.S. National Cryptologic School, where he also taught on the faculty. Email him at John.kolm@teamresultsusa.com .

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