Many of us have been exposed to team training and working on different types of teams. In team training workshops we have heard all the benefits of teams, the most famous being 1+1 = 3. That is, the synergy created between people, or the total brainpower becomes greater than the number of people.
However, in many cases this fails to come to fruition, teams bicker, fall apart, can’t get to an agreement, and are not productive. To counter these issues, here are some simple rules on good team membership and conduct. In this post I will review them and provide some pointers on making teams more successful.
- Have a clear understanding of the subject matter at hand, and understand who the best people are to participate. The team must be composed of individuals that have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the objective. It is always more valuable to get to the actual people that operate within the process vs. the people they report to. These individuals have an intimate knowledge of not only how the process should work, but how it actually works. In many cases, there is an epiphany of knowledge when these people start sharing what they actually do. Some of the things that you may hear are:
- “You really do that?”
- “I didn’t know it works like that”
- “When did we start doing that?”
2. Avoid high level individuals on the team. Many times managers and higher level administrators have a tendency to dominate the conversation and decision-making of team activities. They come to the meeting with a personal agenda and bias the direction of actions. Many times they stifle creativity as other team members are reluctant to speak out as they do not want to have their ideas rejected.
3. Keep the “core team” membership to five or less. Having a team made up of eight to ten people is unmanageable and slows everything down (meeting, decision making, progress…). Keeping a small core team allows you to include “ad hoc” team members (subject matter experts with specialized knowledge) as required, for short periods of time focused on specific outcomes. It keeps things flowing smoothly and makes meeting management goals more effective.
4. Be aware of “style diversity” and the need for it. Team members generally have different “styles” and having a good mix of these styles will help the team be effective and efficient. They are:
- Contributors — task orientation, does assignments, dependable, provides good technical info.
- Collaborators — goal-oriented, open to new ideas, shares with others, sees the “big picture”.
- Communicators — process oriented, effective listener, avoids confrontation, “people person”
- Challengers — willing to disagree, candid and open, questions goals and methods, risk-taker
Keep this in mind during the team member selection process.
5. Accept the fact that all teams or groups go through the same stages of development when they are formed.
- Form — Members are positive and polite, not sure of the objective, excited to be there.
- Storm — conflict between members working styles, question the objective, jockey for position
- Norm — Resolve differences, understand roles, socialize better, commitment to the objective
- Perform — smoothly working towards the objective, completing tasks, making progress
As a leader or manager, keeping these five key points in mind as you select a team for an implementation task, improvement project, or problem-solving activity will increase your chances of success and make the entire experience more enjoyable and developmental for the team. These are proven criteria that have been utilized by organizations for years.
Author: Peter Robustelli
Peter J. Robustelli is Executive Vice President, Client Experience of Juran. Mr. Robustelli possesses over 25 years of diverse experience as a Key Executive in Process and Business Improvement, Consulting, Project Management, Client Management and Business Development. He is an effective, seasoned, hands-on executive who solves business problems and improves operating performance and profitability by integrating organizations, driving process improvement through statistical variation control, and restructuring organizations.
Mr. Robustelli’s primary areas of experience are Executive Leadership, Engagement Management, Change Management, Six Sigma, Lean, Business Process Management, Business Development, Evaluation and Assessment and Service Operations Management. His expertise crosses various industries, including, manufacturing, utilities, government services and transactional settings.