Team is a word that gets used too often and doesn’t really apply the term in a way that lets us see the value of a true team. A team isn’t just a group that works together. Councils, meeting groups, task forces all get the name team applied but aren’t necessarily teams. “Groups do not become teams simply because that is what someone calls them.”
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goats, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
“Teams and good performance are inseparable: You cannot have one without the other.” In every company, there are chances to use teams as a powerful tool to create change, ideas or higher performance. Management just needs to learn how to use teams to accomplish goals that lend themselves to team performance.
“Teamwork represents a set of values that encourage listening and responding constructively to views expressed by others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, providing support, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others.”
The first step to developing a team approach is to see teams as performance units instead of just a set of values. Teams need goals and metrics to perform well. These usually come from management and are based on company values or needs. The team needs a purpose they can all get behind. Change the broad metrics of the company goals into specific and measurable goals the team can focus on.
Everyone on a team must be doing about the same amount of work. Even the team leader needs to be working towards the goal. Unless they all have measurable input into the whole, you don’t have an effective team. Each member must be accountable for their input for the group to really be a team.
There is no need to work specifically on building trust if the team framework is in place. “When people work together toward a common objective, trust and commitment follow.”
There are three basic types of teams, each with its specific challenges. Teams that recommend things, Teams that make or do things and Teams that run things.
Teams that recommend things
These teams need to get off to a quick and constructive start. This can be accomplished by making sure the goals are clear, they have a solid charter and the help and information the team is going to need is in place. The second thing required is to prep for the handoff. The team is not usually the people putting into action the recommendation. Make sure the implementers are involved in some way in the process or the recommendation will probably not happen. Bring these people into meetings with the team early and through the final stages so everyone is on the same page and the recommendation has practical input.
Teams that make or do things
Management needs to decide what the “critical delivery point” is and have that be the focus of the team. There needs to be a relentless focus on performance for these teams or there could be confusion and negative impressions on the team process. If teams are not held accountable it becomes obvious that teamwork is not valued and the team will come apart.
Teams that run things
The biggest issue facing these teams is if they should exist at all. “Although the team option promises greater performance, it also brings more risk, and managers must be brutally honest in assessing the trade-offs.” When teams are used to run things, top management should be sure they have successfully identified the purpose and goal of the team. “Too often, such teams confuse the broad mission of the total organization with the specific purpose of their small group at the top.”
Teams are the most powerful and effective tool management has to tackle the problems of their business. Using them effectively and efficiently is the key to succeeding in the business world.