Rummage, Silos and Teamwork

This is a big week at Wayzata Community Church; it is Rummage Week! For 97 years, the WCC Rummage Sale has been turning one person’s trash into another person’s treasure and using the profits to support charitable organizations in the community and around the world. The Rummage Sales is essentially the biggest garage sale you have ever seen. It takes over WCC’s 100,000 square feet, and most of the parking lots as well. And it is all volunteer-led, which takes massive volunteer effort and tremendous and organization.

Hundreds of people volunteer at Rummage, collecting items, sorting, pricing, organizing shifts, selling, greeting guests and checking customers out. Everyone has a specific job, and each volunteer focuses on that job in order to keep Rummage on track in the weeks leading up to the two-day sale. It is a remarkably efficient operation, and it is driven by the ability of its volunteers to stay on task. And then, on sale day, everything changes. Every volunteer’s focus shifts from doing his or her specific role to doing whatever needs to be done to make the sale run and give shoppers, visitors and guests a memorable Rummage experience. This shift makes Rummage unique, in my opinion. They are laser-focused and specific in their prep, but shift to a “we’re all in this together” mentality for the event, and it is one reason for the tremendous success and longevity of The Rummage Sale.

This ability to pivot, to operate in both ways, is what separates many organizations. Some companies are excellent at defining roles and staying in lanes. Their teams and people are silo-ed, efficient at their jobs, and focused on the important tasks in front of them. Unfortunately, this is also where you might hear the phrase “that’s not my job.” When there is a big opportunity (or perhaps a crisis), their teams are not prepared to simply roll up their sleeves and do what has to be done to meet the challenge. The flip-side is organizations that run in constant all-for-one mode. Teamwork and collaboration reign supreme, everyone pitches in on everything, and everyone is involved. This is a great quality when the big issues or opportunities arise, but it can be messy on a day-to-day basis, with people falling all over each other, a lack of clarity on roles, and inefficient execution and communication. When everybody does everything, no-one is excellent at anything.

The key, as it always does, lies in balance. I am in favor of defined roles as the default setting. Put your people in a position to do what they do best all the time, as it gives them, and the organization, the best chance to succeed. At the same time, build a culture where “that’s not my job” and “that’s our policy” are not in the vernacular—nothing kills momentum and alienates customers faster than those words. Build the expectation that when something absolutely has to get done (for good reasons or bad), everyone on the team jumps in. Establish a culture built around organization and focus, as well as a willingness to do what needs to be done to accomplish goals. Your people, and your business, will be organized, efficient, team-oriented, and successful.

And if you are out and about this Wednesday and Thursday and looking for a good deal on a fishing pole, or a coffee mug, or a lawn mower, or a bike, or a suit, or a dresser, or a sailboat (seriously, there is one waiting for you in the WCC parking lot), stop by the WCC Rummage Sale and go treasure hunting!

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