The Trailer Park Theory of Teams

Published: June 1, 2015

Teams travel through cycles. Year after year, season after season, teams are recalibrated, repopulated, redirected, and redeployed. New talent, new leadership, and new goals drive the change. Amidst these constant transformations, some things stay the same. Consider the analogy of the trailer park. Families in trailers come and go inside this community ecosystem. Yet, the entrance, roadways, concrete pads and utility hookups remain in place. The infrastructure is steady and reliable. So, what comprises your team's infrastructure?

Healthy organizations are rooted in common philosophy, mission, values, and vision. These are the entrances, roadways, concrete pads and utility hookups that remain in place regardless of who populates the trailer park of the workplace.

  • The team philosophy answers the question, “Why do we exist?” This is a global statement asking teammates to identify the central-most reason they do the work they perform each day.
  •  The team mission answers the question, “What do we do?” This is the primary work of the organization. Each teammate lends an element of talent to making the mission possible.
  • The team’s value statement that answers the question, “How do we do our work?” The character of the workplace is often defined by these values. Often, employees are attracted to a team because of the way the work gets performed.
  • The team’s vision statement answers the question, “What are our goals?” Most organizations use the vision statement as motivation for continuous improvement. By stretching the goals slightly out of reach, teammates are encouraged to reach to new heights.

When these fundamental anchors of workplace culture are defined, practiced, and delivered to each new generation of employees, teams are empowered to manage the inevitable cycles of growth and change effectively. Leadership can evolve with the confidence that the organization’s foundation is solid. Teammates can be developed with a succession-minded objective. The workplace becomes an attractive destination for an influx of new talent who embrace the philosophy, mission, values, and vision as their road map for success.

What’s the condition of the entrance, roadways, concrete pads and utility hookups in your trailer park?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.