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from a paper by Dr. Scout Cloud Lee and Jan Summers


The ability to observe the sequential patterns of individual and team interactions may be one of the most effective tools available to assist in team growth, development and change. This paper will define the observation tool known as "tracking" and suggest ways to utilize objects, referred to as "tracking tools," to focus processing and transfer learning to real work.

Tracking: What is it?

Tracking is the ability to notice external behavior in order to understand internal processes. Tracking is observing the whole body moving in patterns in the larger circle of experience. It is observing patterns in and among groups.

All living things move and leave their mark. These marks are observable and extremely valuable as direct feedback for individual and teams. A basic understanding of quantum physics is: to observe the smallest pattern of movement is also to observe the largest pattern. The reverse is also true. To observe the largest pattern is to also see the smallest. For example, one may be seen "dissociating" by stepping back or pressing away. They may also be seen dissociating by sitting or moving on the periphery of a group. This act of dissociation my reflect lack of buy-in, commitment or agreement.

The body is the mind's experience of itself. How a person or group moves through space is how their mind processes information. The body and its selection of where to be in space is a literal metaphor of the human experience at the deepest of unconscious levels. Our bodies literally act out our thoughts. To notice the larger patterns of movement is to understand the internal program. To interrupt patterns is to change the course of destiny. We now have the technology to observe patterns, to interrupt patterns, to elicit patterns, to create patterns, to install patterns, and to model patterns.

To the trained facilitator, tracking is knowing the culture and climate of a team's organization. It is having an understanding of the team's past behavior, basic needs and resources available for growth, development and productivity. When an assessment of the team's past and current status has been made, tracking team dynamics provides valuable insight into team performance and potential. Tracking is noticing linguistic and behavioral patterns within the team in a variety of situations, so that the understanding of team dynamics can lead to opportunities for change, growth and increased levels of performance, well-being and satisfaction. Tracking understands that when a behavior is noticed twice, it is a pattern. If it is observed three times, it is a habit, and repetitions beyond that are impulsive. When behaviors are brought to conscious awareness, they can be changed or developed to maximum potential.

Activities that elicit team behavioral patterns

People learn best by doing. We will remember:

  • 10% or what we READ
  • 20% of what we HEAR
  • 30% of what we SEE
  • 50% of what we both SEE and HEAR
  • 70% of what we SAY and WRITE
  • 90% of what we DO!

There are three basic reasons we choose to use activities as an introduction to real work issues. First, doing a thing provides more behavioral information than simply talking about it. Experience is an essential part of learning. Approximately ninety percent (90%) of what is fed into the brain is proprioceptive (movement in space). How people move and the linguistics that trigger those movements are literally how people think. Second, we have found that teams learn best if they have first had an experience that approximates the issue. From this experience, they can draw relevant information. This format of experience first, followed by cognitive understanding, appears far more effective than the traditional cognitive learning approach that hopes participants will apply the learnings behaviorally. Finally, it has been our experience that teams learn best when they are having fun.

When teams come together there are a number of skills that are needed to insure success. Among them are a variety of synergy skills that create an environment of acceptance, belonging, trust, open communications and a sense of personal expression and value to the organization, team and community. Teams need to understand the dynamics of change and transformation, interpersonal work styles and communication, co-creation and problem-solving, business practices and effective meeting skills, performance improvement and customer service.

Activities that require the same dynamics as real work issues, yet are slightly removed, utilize isomorphism. Isomorphism removes participants form the real work situations to ones that approximate in such a way as to bypass conscious objection. Teams can more objectively approach issues when they are dissociated from the real work long enough to notice and learn from existing patterns. They can then return to the real work issues with a renewed sense of understanding based on their experiences.

We use a variety of activities that allow team members to experience the patterns of teamwork, and to open a forum for learning and skill building. Use of these activities allows team members and facilitators opportunity to track actual linguistic and behavioral patterns without the historical and hypothetical reviews prevalent in a discussion-only format.

Team members and facilitators learn to track language and patterns of behavior in search of those skills that lead to customer delight, increased levels of productivity, collaboration and a profound sense of making a valuable difference. One team of top level managers discovered that real diversity in the workplace reached beyond ethnic and cultural differences to differences in personal work styles. they were able to identify behaviors that had prevented them from valuing one another and from coordinating their division efforts toward the larger performance goals. Another team learned to give developmental feedback and streamline communication in such a way that achieved synergy and maximum results. Any activity that approximates existing or desired team dynamics can be tracked for specific individual or team behaviors applicable to the workplace.

Applied Processing: Tools to Focus Tracking

Tracking is most effective when solicited from team members. Individuals tend to own that which they create or notice for themselves. Eloquent facilitation skills direct a team's focus toward a desired outcome, and allow them to discover solutions. Tracking tools allow for focused -discussion in which everyone listens and everyone has the opportunity to speak.

In a combined effort to focus team processes toward 360 degree feedback and encourage active listening and thoughtful communications, we use a variety of "tools" for tracking information. These objects, found in our Trak Pak symbolize a focus for consideration, and are passed around or back and forth among team members. Individuals may speak only to the topic symbolized, and only when they are in possession of the object. Examples of objects and questions we use are:

  • Key: what was the key to our success? What is the key to unlock our gridlock?
  • Play money: What is the most efficient way to achieve our goal? How can we cut costs and improve service? What are our cost benefits?
  • Ruler: How can we best measure our success?
  • Compass: Who gave us direction? What type of direction?


Tracking provides the team and facilitators eloquent tools for direct and specific observation, assessment and planning. Because external behaviors provide information about internal processes, there is little room for guess work. Planning for change can be specific, observable and outcome oriented.

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