I'm thinking of one business unit within a client organization which needs to clarify how to work as a team. This company has multiple offices; because of acquisitions and mergers, these offices house different functional units - one office focuses on business development, another on production, a third on support services. The employees at each of these geographically disperse locations need to better understand how to work as a team at their particular sites, the offices need to know how to work as a team and the business unit manager needs to know how to provide these teams leadership. Where to start?
Teams are not work groups or committees. The individuals within these teams, and the teams themselves, need information and structure so that they can effectively concentrate on and accomplish the task at hand.
KNOW WHAT TEAMS NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL. Then help the team answer these 5 Simple (but not simplistic) Questions:
WHAT MUST WE ACCOMPLISH? Each of the 'teams' mentioned above has a different history and a different culture. This, and the fact that they operate from different locations, encourages the silo mentality and a loss of focus. A real team has one, singular focus, and it has to be clearer for each team member than simply 'do my job and help the company succeed.' There needs to be a clear goal and rallying call which places boundaries between priority work and everything else. WHAT IS THE TEAM GOAL? Define the One, Key Goal That Determines Success (and Failure), decide how you will measure progress, then make sure it is communicated clearly and continually to all members of the team.
WHO DOES WHAT BY WHEN? All teams need to allocate their resources effectively, and the most fundamental resource is each team member's time and energy. Clarify who is Accountable for the final result, who is Responsible for each task and what their contribution is, who must be Consulted prior to implementation, and who must be Informed, either before or after the fact. You will eliminate dropped balls and ensure that each team member is focused where he or she needs to be focused.
HOW WILL WE DO IT? In the absence of established processes for problem solving and decision making, project management, risk assessment, meeting management or any other of the regular efforts that require coordination between team members, the team WILL (not might) be less efficient in continuing to drive the project forward. Without the clear 'rules of the road' that established processes bring, team members will be more hesitant and always looking to the nominal team leader for 'the answer' when issues arise. Team empowerment - the ability to move forward and address issues as they arise - begins with a clear understanding of and skill in what we term a team's 'tactical tools.' (If time and $$ are tight, which are most fundamental? ALL teams must a. make smart decisions and b. hold effective meetings. Begin there.)
HOW WILL WE RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER AS WE DO IT? While it is true that team members don't have to 'like' one another to get the job done, it is equally true that appreciation, respect and open communication can make all the difference. Clarify your team's culture in a facilitated team meeting. Explore what 'respect' and 'team work' mean to each person, establish a working definition of each and what this means behaviorally for each member of the team. (Tip: explore and get agreement specifically on the team expectation 'we each do what we say that we are going to do and we expect the same from everyone else.')
WHAT SUPPORT DO WE NEED? Broadly speaking, 'team leadership behaviors' can be broken down into 'support' and 'accountability.' As our business unit manager seeks to provide these teams leadership, we suggest that she begin with a PSA, or 'Performance System Analysis.' A PSA enables the leader to simply and quickly review the total environment in which the performers (in this case, the various teams) work. Done well, a PSA identifies the skill gaps, missing resources, roadblocks, imbalances and unintended consequences which research shows actually produces most sub-standard work. The team leader will then understand exactly what type of 'support' her team needs to do the job on time, right, the first time, every time.
5 Simple Questions. At your next team meeting, open a discussion on how to work as a team with these questions. See if you are getting clear, consistent answers to these questions from all members of your team. If any of these questions draw blank looks or divergent answers, follow the tips provided above to gain clarity and get your team moving forward.