Teams, Committees and the Founding Fathers

shutterstock_101095282I recently read a fascinating book about the founding of the U.S. Constitution.  This particular work, entitled The Men Who Invented the Constitution – The Summer of 1787, was written by David O. Stewart and chronicles how a group of 74 delegates from the original colonies gathered in Philadelphia during that sweltering summer to craft a document that has managed to stand the test of time, with but 27 revisions.  While the book gives detailed insights into just how these gentlemen went about their work of shifting the young nation away from the Articles of Confederation to a more concrete framework, I found it to also be an interesting parallel to how teams, committees, and tasks forces operate today.  If you are a history buff – especially the period of the American Revolution – you will most definitely find Stewart’s book to be a good read.  If you prefer something more contemporary and business oriented, you will find easy comparisons between today’s rough and tumble of getting things done and the rough and tumble of 230 years ago when the country was in its infancy.

Without spoiling the story, here are ten things that are no different today than they were in the days of Washington and Madison who, by the way, did not miss a single day of the proceedings.

  1. Goals and objectives must be clearly articulated – you have to know why you are there.
  2. Showing up is crucial – you have to be present to have a voice and an impact.
  3. Compromise and horse trading is how things get done – few of us get everything we want.
  4. Writing a constitution was a messy process – accomplishing something big is seldom pretty.
  5. External conditions make a tough job tougher – when the going gets tough…..
  6. The real work gets done by the few – some are good talkers; others are good doers.
  7. Personalities prevail – every working group has characters we must learn to deal with.
  8. Perseverance pays – hanging in there means big decisions are made by a few.
  9. Most achievements occur nearer the deadline – we debate, and talk, and get off track, and debate, talk and get off track again and again.
  10. The document wasn’t perfect, but…. – you cannot let perfection get in the way of progress.

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