Why is it that some teams get results effectively and efficiently and others just waste our time? Could it be that they are organized? Could it be that they have a process? Could it be that they have effective leadership? Could it be that they share a mutual responsibility to act professionally and are focused on moving toward desired results?
Probably all of the above.
The potential for great achievements lies within the grasp of all organizational teams. There is no doubt that several brains are better than one. Our history of autocratic management styles, organization charts and past experiences have led us to rely on the brains of a few to make decisions for the many.
The reality today is that work is so complex that no one is smart enough to make all those decisions. Leaders may determine some decisions independently, but often we benefit by using a team to develop direction or solutions to problems.
Teams that work usually exhibit characteristics such as:
n Identify a clear and strong purpose and direction.
n Members are selected based on complimentary skills rather than popularity. Team efficiency goes down as the number of members increase so an upper limit of eight members is ideal. Special resources can be brought as needed but need not be regular members of the team.
n Exhibit team discipline and structure.
n Identify acceptable behavior guidelines.
n Identify clear mission- oriented tasks and goals.
n Welcome different perspectives and face facts.
Time is critical and non-renewable for all teams in today's workplace so clearly defined roles are important. They are:
Member - Each member shares the responsibility for the team's success. Ground rules reflect the team's agreed-to values and serve as guidelines for team member behavior.
Leader - In high-performance teams, each member is in a very real sense a leader; the environment of participation and openness created allows members to contribute leadership to the total team effort. When teams are structured with a formal leader role, it is the responsibility of that designated leader to help create this kind of environment. The leader's role during meetings includes:
n Challenge the team to clarify its purpose, objectives, and timeline.
n Help the team define the methods/process to be used.
n Deal with conflicts by focusing on objective/purpose.
n Encourage the group to challenge conventional thinking.
n View members as partners, not as subordinates.
Facilitator - (may or may not be the leader). The facilitator helps to ensure balanced participation while keeping the group focused on its agenda and purpose.
The facilitator maintains objectivity and neutrality on the content of group discussions. He/she also challenges the team to confront difficult issues and helps them become unstuck when they get mired down.
Scribe - The scribe maintains an ongoing record of each meeting and shares with all members
Timekeeper - In collaboration with the group, the timekeeper determines the beginning and ending time for each meeting and also for each agenda item. It is the responsibility of all team members to monitor their own behavior in ways that show respect for time. However, the timekeeper may serve as the "time conscience" for the team.
Teams outperform individuals acting alone or in large organizational settings, especially when multiple skills, experiences and/or judgment are required.
None of us is smarter than all of us, especially if we are organized and work effectively together.
Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works with area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@process