4 - Team Startup
you ever had the awesome experience of being part of a high-performance
team? If you have, then you know what it's like to feel the synergy
as you build on each others' ideas, meet and surpass your goals,
and know that you are unstoppable. Some describe this as being in
the groove, others as a flow state. Often, the word "magical"
is used. Have you ever wondered how this happens and if there are
ways to load a team for this level of performance and success?
some part of it may, in fact, be mystical, and some of it has to
do with the chemistry of the team members, a large body of research
exists that describes the attributes of high performance teams.
call these attributes Team Essentials:
purpose and goals
dependable, trusted team members
of team agreements for how members will work together
these attributes don't just happen by accident--or by magic. We
know that it is easier to set the right norms at the beginning than
it is to change them later. There are activities that can be done
at the outset of a team's life that will help it get off to a good
start, significantly increasing the likelihood that it will eventually
embody the characteristics of a high-performing team. We call this
process Quick Start for Teams (sm).
may be familiar with Tuckman's model of the stages of group formation.
faster a team can move through these stages, the more quickly and
effectively the resources of the group can be applied to the ultimate
task--the Performing stage.
are two principal aspects of a team's work together: (1) the task
or content part, and (2) the process part, comprising the team's
interactions and how its members work together. Teams, especially
technical teams, frequently struggle more with process issues than
with task issues. In fact, the problems of a team's internal interactions
typically inhibit its ability to accomplish its tasks effectively
Therefore, the purpose of a formal start-up process is to assist
the new team in addressing each of the developmental stages explicitly
and efficiently and to give it new tools to deal with the process
issues that will inevitably arise. Without this ability, a team
will get gridlocked by these issues, undermining their ability to
a Quick Start process, teams develop solid and enduring relationships
as well as process agreements and habits. Team members introduce
themselves beyond the usual name-position-tenure recital, sharing
what it is about the purpose and potential of the team that could
make them want to expend the extra energy, effort, and commitment
that is required of a high-performing team.
know that a solid foundation of trust is required for people to
take the risks that are fundamental to innovation, creativity, and
extraordinary achievement. Therefore, members are led through activities
that enable them to explore what trust means, and what they require
in order to build relationships based on confidence, reliability,
and dependability. Those who have come to the team with "baggage"
around each other are assisted in sorting through those issues so
they can now work well together.
essential aspect of group process is a set of operating agreements
(often called "Rules of the Road") that are formulated
by the team and to which all members agree. Participants are encouraged
to create agreements that are sufficiently clear and behaviorally
defined so that they will know whether or not the agreements are
being kept. The agreements also include ways to deal with unkept
agreements promptly, so that trust continues and increases. It's
important to determine how decisions will be made as well as the
default for those unusual times when the team cannot reach an agreement
that all can support.
QuickStart, we also look at the environment outside the immediate
boundary of the team. We invite the team's sponsor to attend part
of the meeting and to talk with members about the team's charter
and purpose, and to connect the work and anticipated deliverables
of the team to the overall goals of the organization. Team members
perform an environmental and stakeholder scan, asking themselves
who has a legitimate stake in the team's project, whom they need
support from, and what resources are required in order for the team
to succeed. They also assess the political climate in which the
team will operate. They look at critical interfaces and interdependencies
and create a plan to ensure that the necessary relationships are
put in place.
start-up process is not complete without the team having a clearly
articulated purpose and an initial set of goals and deliverables.
An explicit vision may also be useful. It is essential that all
members fully understand the vision, purpose, and goals and that
they are committed to them. This set of fundamental statements will
enable the team to make difficult decisions, and keep them motivated
during the rough spots.
is worth noting that in a well-done new team Start-Up, the process
itself is an important product--as important as the vision statement,
the team agreements, the stakeholder analysis, and the decision-making
process. This means that as a result of working together in the
development process, the team has its first successful shared experience
of what it feels like to work together as a team, successfully creating
outputs and outcomes. They actively practice their agreements and
other effective ways of interacting. The experience is internalized
and stored, in both individual and group memory, and it can be easily
recalled in the future as a model for working together effectively.
Although we have not seen an entire book on Team Start-Up, many
books on teams devote a section to the design and creation of new
teams. There are three that we think are particularly good.
in the New Team Environment" by Larry Hirschhorn (Addison Wesley,
2 is called "Creating Team Structure" (pp. 17-45) and
it discusses the concepts of shaping an operating philosophy,
measuring and rewarding performance, promoting an effective system
of roles, and defining the team's environment. Hirschhorn believes
that teams must face these issues early in order to minimize chaos
and confusion. First the team needs to define an operating philosophy,
a strategy for implementing the team's objectives and satisfying
its stakeholders. Such a strategy provides guidelines for managing
trade-offs. Second, the team needs to develop measures of team
performance so that it can learn from and evaluate its experiences.
Third, the team needs to develop an effective system of roles
so that it can regulate tits internal relationships without management
intervention. Fourth the team needs to develop a team climate
in which the work itself, the relationships that shape how people
experience working, and daily learning opportunities all provide
powerful incentives for collaboration.
Horizontal Revolution: Reengineering your Organization through Teams"
by Morris Graham and Melvin LeBaron (Jossey-Bass, 1994)
Chapter Three ("Stage Three: Tilting: Moving from "That's
not my job" to "How are we going to do this?" -
pp. 79-120), Graham and LeBaron tell us that development of team
skills as well as technical and business skills must be an ongoing
activity, and must start early. Teaming requires that team members
commit themselves. Without a commitment and definition of shared
power, people will just recreate the patriarchy they have grown
up with. To function effectively team members will need:
get these things early on, "team" becomes a way to do
things, not just a thing to do.
compellingly articulated vision
of and focus on the team's role and responsibilities
understanding of processes and required standards
of and respect for each other's jobs
common knowledge of how things are supposed to work
to reduce potential conflict with members of other teams
to create strong mutual respect between team members
Organizations: Developing a Successful Team Environment" by
James H. Shonk (Business One Irwin, 1992)
has titled chapter 8 (pp. 121-131), "Training." Teams
require training and continuous learning as they adapt to the
environmental challenges they face. Although he over-emphasizes
the role of training, Shonk makes some excellent points.
reminds us that organizations that skip the training component
or let it lapse over time have to go back and train to correct
subsequent difficulties with their teams. Without training, teams
are slow to mature, and some may never reach a productive working
level. Unproductive work habits often develop, and team members
may become disillusioned with each other and their ability to
function effectively. Early in the training, teams must identify
goals, clarify roles, plan team meetings, and build an understanding
of team-based organizations.
Web-sites and Other Resources we've found about this topic include:
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