So, you bring 15 people together and call them a team. They’re a team, right? Probably not.
Katzenbach and Smith tell us that “a team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and an approach for which they are mutually accountable.” That doesn’t happen automatically. It requires some hard work.
The support of leaders is critical to the success of the team. Leaders help to charter the team. Leaders regularly check in on the operations and progress of the team. Leaders provide resources to help the team.
Another essential element of team success is what I call “the great letting go.” Leaders need to let go of their need to be the focus of decision making. They need to delegate responsibility, authority and accountability.
The team should not be bigger than six to 12 people. More than that and communication and decision making becomes very difficult.
Next, consider the “Team Formation” table as an integrated package. Think about how this might change over time.
Purpose: Departmental, Project or Program, Change or Improvement, Network
Proximity: Small-Scale Co-Located, Large-Scale Co-Located, Virtual
Abilities: Functional, Cross-Functional, Multi-Functional
Duration: Short Term, Long Term, Permanent
Every team should form around a charter. The team charter should include the Team Name, Mission or Purpose, Reporting Relationship, Authority and Boundaries, Objectives and Deliverables, Operating Principles, Membership, Approval. The charter needs to reflect the unique nature of the team including its purpose, proximity, abilities, and planned duration.
Team training should be provided to give each team member the tools they need to be effective. A great way to organize the training is to orient it on the elements of the team charter. Several topics should be specifically addressed including decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
Immediately after the team starts up, begin to consider how the team will evolve and mature. Consider every team engagement as an opportunity for employee development, at the very least, through experiential learning.
Wisdom of Teams: Working Group, Pseudo-Team, Potential Team, Real Team, High Performance
Tuckman: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, (Adjourning)
Five Dysfunctions: Inattention to Results, Avoidance of Accountability, Lack of Commitment, Fear of Conflict, Absence of Trust
Charter: Operations, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Conflict Resolution, Improvement
In The Wisdom of Teams, Katzenbach and Smith draw a “performance curve” to describe the natural changes that occur in a team, if they evolve to high performance. They describe how the teams performance dips until the team becomes a real team.
The Tuckman Model describes a well-known set of actions for teams. Some even refer to this as “the orming model.” As the team progresses and as members come and go, the team will move around in the four elements of the model.
In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni describes critical attributes that get in the way of efficient and effective team performance. He provides a wonderful appraisal tool at the end of the book.
The team charter is a pivotal document to the maturation of the team. The team needs to regularly remind themselves of what is important to their performance and pursue continuous improvement. There’s always more to learn on each of these subjects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer with other clients.