Why is it SO HARD to keep the team on the same page?

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

This post was inspired by a client frustrated by a team communication snafu. I showed her WHY it's so hard to keep everyone on the same page and then created this video to share the same lesson with more frustrated leaders who need it.

Even more intel on this topic is packed into this article to help you succeed. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Did you ever play the "whisper down the lane" game?

In second grade, my teacher asked us to form a giant circle around the room with him. He whispered something to the person sitting to his right. That second grader had to do her best to whisper the same exact thing to the person to her right. We kept doing this until the last child whispered in the ear of the teacher again. He just about fell off of his chair laughing. Then, our teacher told us what he originally said and asked the last child in the circle to repeat what he had just whispered. The two phrases were ENTIRELY DIFFERENT and we all had a good laugh about it.

I will never forget how amazed I was by this demonstration. As a teenager, I would recall this exercise when I heard a nasty rumor about someone and dismiss it until I received trusted information from the source.

There are a lot of reasons WHY we super cute second graders messed this communication exercise up so royally. However, I trust that if you tried it with adults, it would be just as bad if not worse.

Let's leave elementary school, head back over to Projectland and explore this important topic some more.

Did you know there's a formula that explains why it's so hard to keep a team all on the same page?

Let me take you through it.

Imagine you have a three-person team. How many different ways can they communicate amongst each other?

soccer team leaders communicating, planning, making decisions how many communication paths are there
How many "lines of communication" can you draw between 3 people?

If you said three, you're right! Imagine drawing lines between the three people in the image above. This illustrates the literal phrase, “lines of communication.” There are only three communication channels among a three-person team.

Next, imagine that you have a four-person team. How many different ways are there for these four people to communicate with each other? (Or mess up communicating with each other?)

4 LinkedIn sales solution team members in a meeting - how many communication paths are there
How many "lines of communication" can you draw between 4 people?

You can draw the lines around the table like a square and then two diagonal lines to make six paths.

But, what if you have a bigger team? What if you have a 10- person team? For most people, this many communication channels is harder to visualize.

How do you calculate communication paths?

Luckily math is our friend and it has a little formula for us!

The formula is N times N minus one divided by two, where N is the Number of People. It looks like this:

N * (N-1)