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Where Nowhere Is

An incident that happened to a colleague of mine some years ago illustrates this mode of operation. An organization development consultant was meeting with clients in a hospital conference room when one leg of a massive oak conference table buckled. The table fell on her foot, twisting her leg and trapping her. Instantly, the others sprang into action. Two lifted the heavy table from her foot while another held her hand reassuringly. Someone else called ahead to x-ray while yet another slipped into the hall to get a gurney. Not a word passed among the members of this medical team. They all knew exactly what needed to be done and each simply started doing a part of it. No one had to take charge and no discussion or negotiation was necessary, yet they were not working at cross purposes.

There is nothing magical about this kind of synchronous operation. If you watched them closely enough, you would spot the communication going on, but it is largely nonverbal and relies heavily on tacit agreement and prior knowledge. As each member of the team sees what others are doing, they adjust their own actions to fit. That way everybody doesn't go for the phone at once and the gurney is available when needed.


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