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Build Organisational Capability Through Team Effectiveness

April 3, 2014 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

In business and public sector organisations in 2014, how well are the groupings of people reporting to a manager working?  Are organisations investing in developing teams?

In an organisation, teams are groups of people, normally reporting to a manager, who show synergy; where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The individuals work together in a way that captures all their personal contributions and additional inputs from collaboration.  Teams are important because they produce more than a group and can demonstrate high performance.  High performing teams have these characteristics:

Groups of people reporting to a manager do not become a team by accident or by expecting that they will.  Team development occurs because there is a sense that performance and/or work satisfaction can be improved, usually initiated by the manager of the team, but not always.  Once a decision has been made to develop a group into a team, the approach to developing a team can be discussed under the following headings:

Where are we now?

Determining the current reality of a group to be developed into a team is critical if the things that the group members believe to be important are to be addressed in any subsequent development process.  Gathering information from group members about how they see the group, such as its strengths and weaknesses, will contribute to the agenda for development.  Undertaking a diagnosis also involves the whole potential team, including the leader/manager, in considering the group’s effectiveness and engages them in thinking about how it can be developed.  This helps prepare everyone for any subsequent process.

At Nelson Consulting we use our Team Effectiveness Questionnaire to review a group’s current reality (‘where we are now’) in relation to their desired position (‘where we want to be’).  The questionnaire is organised into five domains:

The questionnaire is designed so respondents can make two decisions about each item in each domain; one for current reality and one for desired position.  This design produces a gap analysis between current reality and desired position.  A key issues section is also included for each domain for respondents to include further comments if they wish.

The findings of the diagnosis can be prioritised by the gap analysis which reveals the items with the biggest gaps as important to resolve. These items can be informed and clarified by the key issues identified by the respondents.

To address the findings the group needs to come together for a discussion.  Preferably this should be held in an off-site location where the group can debate the findings from the diagnosis free from interruptions and day-to-day pressures.

Common Purpose

Common purpose is essential for a team.  To start identifying common purpose, the simple question to answer is ‘what are we here for?’  However, this is rarely a sufficient question for a group that desires to become a high performance team.  We recommend that the basics of developing a team vision are discussed and agreed.  This should include a summary of the team’s common purpose and how it will enable:

It should also indicate how the team’s stakeholder interests will be served; colleagues in other parts of the business, the wider group, customers, suppliers etc.

Debating and agreeing common purpose is a task type activity because it focuses the work of everyone in the team.  It is also a relationship building activity, provided everyone feels that they have had the opportunity to contribute and have had their say.

The Leader’s Role

Clearly, the leader’s role is very important and it is likely that he/she will have initiated the diagnosis to find out how best to develop the team’s effectiveness.  Managers determined to achieve high performance and aware of the value of investing in team effectiveness usually aim to do some development early on following a group’s formation.  During discussions about the development of the group and any findings from a diagnosis, the manager needs to ensure that he/she does not dominate the discussions and encourages everyone to contribute their views.  This is critical in relation to the development and agreement of common purpose because everyone must have a sufficient level of commitment to the group’s common purpose for it to commence development as a team.

It is important for the manager/leader to have some clear views about the team’s purpose and have potentially a personal vision for the team.  As leader, it will be expected by the other members of the group that he /she will have some definite views.  However, it is recommended that these views are presented as a starting point for the group’s debate and positioned as an outline of common purpose to which everyone can contribute.  A leader who has a strong personal vision is advised not to deliver it in its entirety at the outset of a discussion lest it suppresses debate and discussion.  Encouraging and gaining individual members’ contributions and including these into the overall common purpose is likely to engage individual commitment and shared ownership of the group’s purpose.

The leader needs to maintain an inclusive approach to focusing the group on the findings of the diagnosis.  Some of the topics identified by the diagnosis may be difficult for the group to discuss fully without patience and support being offered by the leader.  Indeed in the early stages of group formation it is not unusual for there to be a lack of clarity around certain issues, such as role boundaries, which can cause sensitivity.  Difficult subjects should not be avoided but explored and discussed.  This will set a standard of openness which can be built upon as more topics affecting the team and its effectiveness are addressed.

Individuals and Teams

Individuals and their membership of a group can be a big topic, largely due to the degree to which an individual retains their individualism or difference from others or decides to ‘join’ the group.  Interestingly, mature and high performing teams can include powerful and talented individuals but also be unified in commitment to the teams’ purpose, goals and values.  This team characteristic is a result of team building and an ongoing commitment to maintaining team effectiveness.

It is a useful investment in team development to address individuality and being an effective member of a team.  This can be facilitated by using a self-perception inventory such as Belbin’s Team Roles or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Both inventories deliver positive descriptions of different people types that, in their own individual way, can contribute to team performance.

The process of a group of individuals undertaking an analysis such as that provided by Belbin or Myers-Briggs is usually very constructive because apart from the self learning provided, everyone develops a better understanding of why their colleagues see things differently.  This generally leads to group members recognising that the individual differences of their colleagues can provide a broader range of contributions to team performance.

The important issue to address and get accepted early by individuals and the group as a whole is that diversity is strength.  Critically, it is important for the leader to accept this dimension of team effectiveness so they do not surround themselves with too many of the same types.  Too many of the same tends to lead to dysfunctionality, sometimes manifested by ‘groupthink’, unproductive conflict or simply underperformance due to insufficient breadth of talent.

Practical Team Development

Developing a team from a group needs a piece of quality time in a suitable location where the group members can concentrate on the subject of team building.  Preferably, a 2.5 day plus residential workshop, designed with some structure to achieve the specific aims for the group, will set a direction for success.  The programme should address the topics discussed above and if the recommendation of a diagnostic is used, time must be included to discuss the findings and make decisions about addressing the opportunities.

Using experiential exercises can get the workshop off to a good start and set a practical tone.  Strategies for change need to be agreed and the process for maintaining and progressing team development established.  There are many useful tools that can be used to help the team develop, but success ultimately depends on the leader and the team members making commitments and agreeing actions to make it work for them and their organisation.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through

As with any learning, it is important to follow-up the original initiative; this to prevent the natural degradation of learning that occurs if no review takes place.  Of greater importance is to progress the development of team effectiveness by the team discussing implementation successes and challenges and engaging its full capability to achieve its goals.

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