Performance Teams

Team Selection
If you were selecting a basketball team, what criteria would you use for the selection of players? If an academic team were being selected, what would your criteria be? If the selection of a process improvement team were the objective, what criteria would be used?

It seems so simple, but businesses usually make things complicated. Too much attention to politics and control will spoil the team’s chemistry. There are some simple rules, though, that can make the process less painful and more successful. First, the make up of a team will need to change a little as it moves through the process improvement phases. There will be a core group of members all the way through, but there will be a shifting of other members depending upon what the team needs at the time.

There are three main types of members: regular, ad hoc, and resource members. The regular members attend all meetings, unless advised otherwise, and participate in all team activities. Ad hoc members participate only when the team requires their expertise. Lastly, there are resource members. Their meeting attendance is at the discretion of the team leader. These team members are sources of information, resources (time, money, etc.), or coaching.

The second rule has to do with the specific talents of the members. A process improvement team should include a process owner, a process expert, a budget and accounting member, someone from engineering (if applicable), and maybe even a stakeholder (customer). It can also be helpful to place persons on the team that may work against you if left out. Being a member will give them buy in.

Third, a team should have a common purpose. This common purpose comes from building a common identity. The team should know what the business expects from them, as well as the known roadblocks and limitations. This can become sticky. What should a team leader do if he has a member who is trying to sabotage the team’s work? This is not an uncommon situation.

Team Dynamics
Positive team member behavior involves respect. This respect is built upon a willingness to show consideration and appreciation for others of the group. In fact, showing respect for others is a cornerstone of a stable society. With it, there is progress and synergy (alignment). Without it, there is stagnation and disintegration.

The team environment is a micro-society. A team that is respectful of others, and the team as a whole, will have the best chance of success. The appreciation of diversity of opinion is the starting point of positive team dynamics. The point of putting a team together is to have a diversity of opinion. All opinions and ideas have value and contribute to developing a best solution or result. To be successful, the team members should recognize and celebrate diversity of opinion. This means looking for the useful and positive in everyone’s comments and questions. Agreeing to disagree is the adult method of dealing with conflict.

This is how a team gains consensus. It is also a means to allow diversity of opinion to exist and drive the team forward. By agreeing to disagree, members do not have to let go of their opinions to move forward.

Another important aspect of respect within a team is attendance. The members have to be present in both body and mind in order to contribute toward the team’s success. If a member is absent, that person does not contribute and slows the team’s progress. An unengaged member presents a similar problem. Attendance ties in with completion of action items. Since teams use tasks and timelines to plan for success, action items become the vehicle for team progress. The team assigns action items to a responsible person and a due date is set. This makes the team’s progress predictable and the distribution of resources easier to control. When members do not take action items seriously, the team cannot function.

When a team is functioning correctly, everyone is contributing. Contributing means participation, voicing your opinion, and adding your brainpower to the team’s efforts. One moment you are giving information, the next you are listening, and the next you are negotiating. The resulting high energy level speeds the team’s progress. It is also more fun.

Team Leadership
The team leader plays an important role in making sure that all team members contribute. This may mean asking someone’s opinion, or slowing down a team member who is too dominating. In either case, every team member’s dignity is important. The responsible person on a team is called a leader for a reason. This is because the leader is expected to lead and manage, not supervise the team effort. This implies that exceptional leadership skills are necessary for those responsible for managing an improvement team.

A leader is more effective than a supervisor is in this case. This is because a leader gets their power from people being willing to follow (a team environment) while supervisors get their power from higher levels of management (a command and control environment). In fact, a supervisory approach to team management will prevent success. Process improvement is a “What do you think?” activity not a “Do as you are told” activity.

Team Member Behavior
Some types of team member behavior will hinder a team’s progress. An example might be the person who is there because it is part of their performance evaluation. This person is not there for the team. They are there to service their own needs. This person will usually find pleasure in hindering team progress with arguments that have no substance or by not helping with action items.

The “card player” is another example of an ineffective team member. This person is quietly paying attention to the ebb and flow of power. They align themselves with the winning side on issues and rarely express their real opinions. It is all about keeping themselves on the correct side (the prevailing point of view) of issues. This kind of participation is more political than constructive. As a result, their contribution can bias the results of team activities such as scoring matrices, brainstorming, and multi-voting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.