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The Story of The Ants And Teamwork

by Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan

ANTSHave you even noticed a group of ants at work? If you have, then you are surely going to agree with me that we can learn quite a lot from their behaviours about management, planning and above all teamwork. I once looked at about one hundred or more ants carrying a sugar bee. Compare the size of the sugar bee with that of a single ant. By itself the ant would never be able to move the sugar bee. A group of ants certainly would move it to the desired destination. As I looked, there was the sugar bee being carried aloft the back of the ants who had formed a circle beneath the bee. Their success, the realization of their goal was due to teamwork. Co-Operation was the way to success in the Kingdom of the ants. The load may have seemed heavy, the task daunting, but the energy and strength of the group brought success.

Teamwork does not come about by wishful thinking. For teamwork to emerge and for success to be achieved teams require leaders. Among the ants, there must be a leader pointing the group in the right direction. Think of it, there must have been planning. Above all, the bee could not have been moved if each of the ants was not prepared to pull its weight, do what had to be done until the task was completed. Everything that we try to tell human beings (ourselves) about cooperation and teamwork leading to goal achievement is demonstrated by a tiny group of ants moving a large sugar bee. Again, just for a moment, think of the size of the sugar bee compared to that of a tiny black or red ant.

Nothing can be achieved in this world without teamwork, the unselfish and unconditional sharing of ones best skills and resources for the benefit of the community. If the animal and the insect world could instinctively cooperate to achieve, why can’t human beings who supposedly are of greater intelligence do likewise? The answer is in two words, greed and selfishness. Human Beings are yet to appreciate that they will be far better off working together rather than working alone. In all areas of life the competitive nature of man and the urge to be better than the other, to be more recognized, combine to negate the idea of teamwork which requires as fundamental values, selfishness and self sacrificing behaviours  If ever you have the opportunity to look at the ants moving an object, you will also see that when an ants gets tired it is replaced by another.

For teams to be successful they must have a clear purpose. This means having a clear mission as an organization. More than this, the leader must ensure that the members of the team are aligned to the mission. The example of Medtronics is instructive. Medtronics’ mission is to help people lead fuller lives. “WE RESTORE PEOPLE TO THE FULLNESS OF LIFE” IS THEIR STATED PURPOSE. Purpose drives passion! With a clear mission as this, persons joining Medtronics have a clear understanding of why they are part of the company. Not only is the mission made known to employees, but in addition the found of the company, Bill George is known to meet with all new employees to discuss the mission and as well the values that support the mission in the real world of business.

A successful team not only shares a commonly agreed upon mission, but in addition, consistently practice the values which the mission implies. For example, at Medtronics, these values consist of restoring people to full health, serving their customers with products and services of the highest quality, recognizing the personal worth of each other, making a fair profit and maintaining good citizenship for the company. Without the practice of the values implied in the mission the team cannot be successful. Leadership, a clear purpose and the practice of the values implied by the mission are critical to team success.

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