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Fifteen years ago, Maria Cortez was working as a free-
lance writer of technical manuals for a variety of com-
panies. The manuals supported a number of products,
including household appliances, alarm systems, lawn-
mowers, and tractors. Soon Cortez’s freelance activity
became more than she could handle, so she subcon-
tracted work to one other freelancer, and then another,
and then another. Two years later, Cortez founded
Tymco, and the firm has grown steadily. The company
now provides technical manuals, training and develop-
ment, and foreign-language translation and interpreting.
Tymco now employs 75 full-time employees, as well
as about 45 freelancers who help the company with peak
loads as well as specialized services. For example, one
freelancer translates software into Japanese. Another
specializes in preparing user guides for digital cameras
and digital video cameras.
Cortez recently became concerned that the unit heads
and other key personnel in the company were not work-
ing particularly well as a team. She explained to Tim
Atkins, a training specialist on the staff, “We all work
for a company called Tymco, yet we function like in-
dependent units and freelancers. I notice that our staff
members hardly even have lunch together. I’ve arranged
a couple of group dinners, but other than having a nice
meal, no team spirit seems to develop.
“I think that if we had better teamwork, our units could
help each other. We might even be able to cross-sell
better. I’ll give you an example. A person in the techni-
cal manual group might have an assignment to prepare a
manual for an appliance. He or she should immediately
mention that Tymco has another group that could do
the foreign-language translations for the manual. A lot
of manuals for U.S. distribution are written in English,
Spanish, and French.”
Atkins replied, “Look, I’ve been eager to run a
team-development activity that has worked well for
dozens of companies, and it is so simple. We first desig-
nate who you think should be included in the group that
requires the most development as a team. You choose
one work day for the team-building activity. It involves
targeting an old house badly in need of repair in a poor
neighborhood. Abandoned houses don’t count. We need
a house with a family living in it. Working with churches
in the neighborhood, it’s easy to find a suitable house
and a family willing to be helped.
“About a week before the team-building date, a
handyperson and I visit the house to get some idea of the
type of work that needs to be done. We then purchase
all the needed supplies, such as paint, roofing shingles,
and wood. We also round up the ladders, paintbrushes,
and tools.
“On team-building day, the group descends on the
house and starts the rehab process. Two days is usually
needed. If we start the job on Friday, it could be finished
on Saturday. In this way the group would receive 1 day
off from work, and the members would contribute 1 day
of their time.”
Cortez was so enthused about Atkins’s idea that she
agreed on the spot on Friday, May 19, as the team-
building day. She suggested that the day be called Tymco
Home Rehab. Cortez made up a list of 10 key employ-
ees, including her, to participate in the team-building
Friday morning at 7, the first of five different cars and
trucks filled with Tymco staff members, ladders, tools,
and home-building supplies arrived at 47 Blodgett Street.
Teena Jones, supervisor of technical manuals, shouted to
the group, “We can’t get anywhere until we start getting
rid of the debris around the house and in the hallway. So
let’s get shoveling. The dumpster is on the way.”
“Grab a few people and do what you want,” re-
sponded Larry Boudreau, supervisor of technical doc-
umentation. “If we don’t patch up that torn-apart roof
first, nothing else will matter. I need two warm bodies
that aren’t acrophobic [afraid of heights] to help me.”
Two other staffers agreed to work with Boudreau, while
the seven other staff members, including Cortez, formed
the clean-up brigade.
“Carpentry is my thing,” said Mary Benito from
translations services. “Let’s get out the hammers, saws,
nails, and screws and start repairing this broken porch
first. I want us to be ready for painting the house by
noon tomorrow.”
“Do what you want, Mary,” said Dale Jenkins, a
technical-training team leader. “I’m good at home
plumbing, and the toilets and sinks here are leaking
more than the Titanic. I need a skilled pair of hands to
help me. Any volunteers?”
Cortez said, “While you folks are shoveling debris
and fixing, I’ll run out and get us the food for snacks and
lunch, and I’ll order pizza for a supper break.”
“That’s the most sensible idea I’ve heard today,”
commented Larry Boudreau.
The Tymco team-building participants had supper to-
gether at 5 that evening, and went home at 8 to return at
7 the next morning. By 1 p.m., painting the house began,
with all 10 people on the team participating. By 7:30,
the house at 47 Blodgett Street was painted. The family
members, who were staying with neighbors, came by to
cheer and weep with joy.
The Tymco team members exchanged smiles, high-
fives, and hugs. “We can all go home now feeling that
we’ve accomplished something really important as a
team. And we can come back to the office on Monday
morning knowing that we can work well as a team de-
spite a few bumps and bruises.”
“Good comment, Mary,” said Ian Graham from the
technical manual group. “Yet, I’m not so sure that re-
placing shingles on an old roof has made me a better
team player.”

Case Questions

1. What evidence was presented in this case that the
staff members from different units at Tymco might
have become better acquainted with each other?

2. What should Maria Cortez do next to improve the
chances that the home-rehab day might result in
genuine team development?

3. What evidence is presented in this case that the
home-rehab day did give a boost to team spirit?

4. How valid is Graham’s comment about replacing
shingles having no particular impact on becoming a
better team player?

(for each question write 100-150 words)

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