Teamwork is a catch-all phrase for a myriad of collaboration components. It’s also a concept that’s embraced in many types of organizations. Within an organization, teamwork is often viewed as a creative and efficient method to achieve positive, sustainable results and, in many cases, a method of departmental operations. I believe that when teamwork is applied externally, it can net those same positive results.
According to a 2001 study by Martin Hoegl and Georg Gemuenden, “the quality of teamwork may be measured by analyzing the following six components of collaboration among team members: communication, coordination, balance of member contributions, mutual support, effort and cohesion.”
For me, that translates to the ability to problem-solve, develop relationships, engage in healthy competition and forge a pathway to future partnerships. However, to efficiently and effectively achieve the maximum benefits of teamwork, all stakeholders or team players must share a common goal.
While the agricultural and seed industries have historically worked together as a team on a number of fronts, from policy to education, we’ve been reluctant in collaborating with competing forces. Fortunately, I have the pleasure of reporting that new ground was broken and bold steps were taken when the seed industries, governments and regulatory agencies came together to find solutions to seed export and re-export issues.
After several attempts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the collaboration went external last year at a meeting that was held in Nogales, Mexico. By that extension, the list of collaborators became the group of stakeholders who had active roles and expertise in the business matters at hand.
Creative leadership by American Seed Trade Association and the Asociacion Mexicana de Semilleros (Mexican Seed Trade Association) initiated the call to their respective seed industry players and partners to join in an effort to draft an action plan to regain a smooth and transparent flow to concerns regarding seed export, re-export and import. This not only brought together the government agencies and associations, but also represented were plant breeders, production companies, seed distributors, diagnostic laboratories, testing kit manufacturers and customs and border patrol officials. Many facets of the industry had a seat and a voice at the table.
After three consecutive days of meetings, asking numerous questions, sharing concerns and having honest and open conversations, the collective team set forth a pathway for resolution with the notion that other issues will follow this same path. In other words, success was achieved, but it was only through this type of cooperation and common desire to understand the issues and find a sustainable solution.
I had the privilege of participating in these meetings and observed several byproducts from this external collaboration. Relationships were developed, which are proving to be invaluable. New matters that arise never escalate to the “crisis” stage and new plat-forms are being created for business partnerships. It truly was teamwork. Today this successful collaborative pathway is being exercised and applied to other international seed industry concerns.
Karen Ann Breen (formerly McGuire), president and project manager at Global Environmental Matrix, LLC, a consulting and advocacy group with a focus on agriculture