As a little girl I remember picking up discarded shells, shiny rocks, lumps of seaweed, anything that I could fit into my pocket while beachcombing. My mother, one of the original environmentalists, shared with me that nature was this wonderful ecosystem where each object was needed to continue the never-ending life cycle. Empty shells were in fact homes for small beach creatures, and my lovingly gathered treasures were robbing future generations. She allowed me to pick one object to share back home at school, but the rest had to be left behind.

Such is my description of the shiny object syndrome, which is the bedevilment of both children and adults alike. Beware its invasion into your organization, as illustrated by a team development project I was a part of. According to the leader and team, they needed someone to help them get focused, work together more collaboratively, and facilitate a larger department-wide meeting with multiple layers of employees involved.

Upon learning they had worked with several different consultants in the past, I tried to find out what progress they had made, where did they think they were stuck, and what had they already tried. This is when they shared with me five different team development models they were knowledgeable in, each one favored by a different consultant they had worked with over the past two years. Their question, “If you work with us, what does your team development model look like?” My candid comment, “If hired, the work we would do together is to select the best model you are most familiar with and meets your group needs, and then we will move forward with the heavy lifting of actually putting it into practice over the longer term.” Their lack of focus was having too many shiny objects to choose from, and not enough follow through to make any one of them stick.

The next time a consultant says you have to use their particular model to work together more collaboratively, ask these all important questions:

  • What benefit will we derive from it?
  • Does it align with other work we have already done in the past?
  • How will we be able to sustain it once you are gone?