Is a Chain Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link?

Everyone knows the cliche that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The saying comes from Thomas Reid’s Essays on the intellectual powers of man which was published in 1786. Basically, a chain is composed of parts that work together to perform a particular action. If one link is malfunctioning shouldn’t the other links pick up the proverbial slack? Anyone ever ridden a bicycle whose chain had a broken link? Ergo, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Why is one link weaker compared to the other links in the chain? A mistake in the design process of the bicycle chain? The link was damaged during a bicycle ride? Proper maintenance not performed on the bicycle?

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How does this relate to team productivity in the digital age?

In the digital age, teams work across diverse software platforms, as well as, with each team member’s unique strengths and weaknesses in communication skills. What are some things that can weaken a team’s ability to win in the digital age? A hypothetical example is listed below. One issue that arises in teams is complacency. Complacency can get into the DNA of a very productive team. Further, the team starts to take shortcuts just to complete work on time.

“We always have done things this way!” becomes the team mantra. The team leaders start to disengage from the team, and productivity drops. Hubris sets in and criticisms and critiques of the team performance are ignored. Hubris led to the downfall of many leaders and their nations over the past two thousand years. You don’t stay great by allowing complacency and hubris to germinate in a nation or company.

I think one way to avoid complacency and hubris is having team members rotate into different jobs, and projects so their skillsets stay relevant. Another idea is holding each team member accountable to the same standards for getting the work done. Also, in the digital age, new productive ideas germinate each day from web blogs, journals, and podcasts. In the team weekly meeting, give a few minutes were new productive ideas are brainstormed and tried for one month.


Phillip D'Amato
Phillip D'Amato
Phillip D ‘Amato is an echocardiographer who has a passion for writing and for reading classic literature. I have worked in the field of non-invasive cardiology for twenty-five years. I enjoy studying history and am committed to preserving the environment for future generations. I write primarily about technology and other diverse fields on social media. I am working on e-publishing a sci-fi anthology series in the near future. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and here.

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  1. I think 2020 has given all too many examples of broken links. Generally, the finger has pointed to the fact that efficiency and resilience are antithetical, and as we have focused on efficiency above all else, there has been no backup when the proverbial chain broke.

    What you suggest for team development, Phillip, is building resilience back into the system. If people are rotating and thereby building a broader, less specialized skill set, they have the ability to support each other. But even more importantly they gain the humility that comes with knowing that what the other team member is doing is actually complicated and deserves respect.

    Because isn’t that part of what leads to the malaise you describe, that it is always “me” lifting the biggest load and the others that slack? And “my” task that is the hardest? (At least as long as I have no clue what the other tasks entail.)

    • Thanks for the wonderful insights on this topic Charlotte,.I think resilience is vital for a team success in the digital age.

  2. Phillip, I’m loving reading your bio almost as much as your piece! What an interesting background you have! This was such a good study in human dynamics. I think the issue you described with teams is something all humans face to some extent. Do we allow complacency within ourselves, or do we continue reaching and growing and aiming for excellence? Your diverse interests illustrate that you are a reacher-grower-excellence-aimer! I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of reading your work before and I’m sincerely looking forward to what you contribute in your next piece!

    • Thanks for the kind words Kimberly. I am honored to be a part of this great community on Bizcatalyst.