Developing Teams And Teamwork In The Real World
Developing Teams And Teamwork In The Real World
Teams fall into one of five categories:
- A group of individuals
- An embryonic team
- A developing team
- An established team
- A high performance team
So, how does one develop a group of individuals into a high performance team?
Step 1 - Organizational alignment
The process starts with organizational alignment. Before you can align people, you first have to align the enterprise itself. That means achieving a match between the realities of the marketplace and the capabilities of the company. You also need an organizational goal - something that everyone in your organization can relate to. Then you can begin the process of aligning your people. If you do this successfully -
- Everyone will understand where the organization is now
- Everyone will understand the destination and the journey
- Everyone will understand their role in getting there
If the organization isn't aligned at a macro level, one can hardly expect teams to be aligned as well.
Step 2 - Teams are a means to an end, not an end in themselves
When teams became the focus of research after the end of the Second World War, the primary purpose in their formation was to benefit the work-life of the individual members. The spin-off was enhanced organizational performance. Today, it's the other way around. The primary benefit of teams is seen as enhanced organizational performance with the spin-off being quality of individual work-life. The changing emphases of teams are summarized below. It builds on one taken from "Managing Teams" by Lawrence Holpp.
How the emphasis of teams has shifted:
Rationale: From - As an end in themselves and quality of working life - to - As a means to an end and organizational performance
Focus: From - Operational - to - Strategic and operational
Purpose: From - To get along better and employee engagement - to - To improve work performance and organizational alignment
Usage: From - Outside main organizational structure - to - Main building block of organizational structures
Measure of effectiveness: From - how do we all feel? - to - Have we achieved our goals?
Training: From - Team building groups, interpersonal skills, personal growth - to - Team skills, quality tools, problem solving tools, communication skills, process skills
Performance appraisal: From - Individual - to - Team and individual
Lifespan: From - Temporary - to - Permanent
Culture: From - Elitist - to - The way we do things around here
So it's critical that the formation and development of teams is driven by the belief that teams are the key to meeting the performance challenges of your organization.
Step 3 - Start with the basics - team purpose and goals
The effectiveness of teams can be categorized under eight major headings:
- Team purpose and goals
- Team structure
- Team accountability
- Team development
- Interpersonal relationships
- Team culture
- External relationships
- Organizational culture
These eight factors are arranged in a hierarchy. The first six measure the internal effectiveness of the team, whilst the seventh looks at the relationship that the team in question has with other teams. The last looks at how favorable or otherwise the culture of the organization is towards team development. Does executive management support team development through its actions or does it merely pay lip service to the concept?
Thus the basic requirement for team development is that its members agree on a common purpose - what is it that the team has been set up to achieve? It might be the provision of customer service or new product development or managing a supply chain. But whatever the purpose, it represents an activity. A goal, on the other hand, is a result - it is the means by which one measures how effectively the purpose of the team has been carried out. Both the team's purpose and the goal need to be aligned to the purpose and the goal of the organization.
Step 4 - Team structure, accountability and development
Next comes team structure. Members must understand their roles and those of the other members. There must be ground rules that set out how the team is to operate, who does what, what members expect of one another, the frequency of team meetings etc.
Each team should have a leader who is preferably a team member. The leader, just like the other members, should do "real" work, not act in a supervisory role. Non-playing captains rarely work in sporting teams, neither do they in workplace ones.
Team development focuses on technical, process and communication skills rather than interpersonal skills and personal growth.
Of course, interpersonal skills development and the establishment of a positive team culture are important but if the fundamentals of team performance are established and nurtured, interpersonal skills development will take place in the right context - how will it enhance still further the performance of our team?
Step 5 - Embed the teams within your organization
When team development is seen as a discrete program that is run in parallel with the main program of implementing the organization's operational strategies, it will always be vulnerable to executive changes and budgetary constraints. The program is seen as an end in itself and viewed as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have initiative. In contrast, when teams are established as a means of achieving clear performance goals and when they become the building block of the organizational structure, a convergence takes place whereby team and organization goals merge. Teams and teamwork are seen as a means to an end and are thus accepted as the way "we do things around here".
Step 6 - Measure team effectiveness
How long does it take to turn a group of individuals into a high performance team? Well, I hate to say it but the chances that you will be a member of a high performance team that meets all the criteria are slim. That's the bad news. The good news is that most team should be capable of attaining high performance team status which should be more than adequate for the team to realize its performance goals - and to be an enjoyable environment in which to work. But you have to work at it by repeating the cycle of plan, implement, measure and adapt. That old adage that "you cannot manage what you cannot measure" applies as much to the development of teams and teamwork as it does to just about anything else in life.