Is Your Team Really a Team?
Teamwork is talked about widely in organizations, but often with little understanding of what it means. Organizations want instant results, teams that are formed and ready to go overnight – something like an instant pudding.
This article looks at the six basic elements of teams. But first, here’s one definition of a team (from Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, The Wisdom of Teams):
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
There are two key prerequisites to becoming a team. One is that the group of people involved has a common purpose and the other is interdependence among the members. Without both of these present the group will never become a team.
It’s essential that the members of a team be committed fully to their common purpose and performance goals. A common purpose takes time to develop, but it gives the team an identity. Remember: team purpose = team performance. They’re inseparable.
To determine if your group is a team, or has the potential, answer the following questions.
1) How large is your group?
Is communication frequent?
Do you meet often, and are discussions constructive?
Do people understand their roles?
2) Are their sufficient, or potential, skills to achieve your goals?
Are the three types of skills present: interpersonal, technical, and problem-solving?
What skills are missing?
Are people willing to learn new skills and to help one another?
3) Is there a clear and meaningful purpose to which people will strive to reach?
Is it a team or organizational purpose?
Does everyone understand it the same way?
Do people think it’s important and inspiring?
4) Are there specific performance goals that everyone agrees on?
Are they organizational, team, or the leader’s goals?
Can they be measured easily?
Do they allow for small wins along the way?
5) Is there a commonly accepted approach to work?
Does it maximize the contributions of people?
Does it allow open interaction among people to solve problems?
Are new ideas encouraged?
6) Is there mutual accountability among people?
Is there individual and mutual accountability for the group’s performance and results?
Are people clear on what they’re accountable for, individually and mutually?
Is there the view that only the team can fail?
Don’t be intimidated if you answered no to many of these questions. Developing an effective team takes time and sustained commitment on the part of everyone – both management and staff. Work towards the goal of teamwork in a steady manner, celebrating the little victories along the way. Remember, you’re not making instant pudding.
James Taggart has been a student of leadership for over 15 years, and devoted over a decade to applied work in leadership development, organizational learning, and team building. As a thought leader, he has initiated and led several change management projects. He has also worked as an economist for many years, conducting applied research into labour market issues; carrying out policy research in the areas of science, technology and innovation; and initiating projects focused on industrial competitiveness.
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