Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
– Vince Lombardi
Team work is a product of people working together. The current post is a two part post on the dimensions of team effectiveness – success factors. Although, every team is different; when you take away the specific task and context, all teams are fundamentally alike. By that, I mean all teams expend some effort to get their mission accomplished. Throughout the literature there are six important factors that I feel are important to address (Greenberg, 2010; Kabaga & Browing, 2003).
- A clear purpose
- An empowering team structure
- Strong organizational support
- Positive internal relationships
- Well-tended external relationships
- Efficient informational management
These areas can then be used to help further define a team’s success. This post will address the top three; although all of the six are important to a team’s success. Specifically, I cover some symptoms of dysfunction and a recommendation for success.
1. A clear purpose:
This is a frequent cause of team dysfunction. Everyone on the team should be able to answer the question: What are we here to accomplish? When purpose is clear to all, it provides the motivation for ongoing effort and willingness to endure setbacks and tackle tough obstacles.
Symptoms of an unclear purpose:
- Foot dragging and boredom: When part of the team’s task becomes mundane, repetitive, or unclear, motivation can drop off.
- Duplicate skill sets: When too many members have the same competencies and expertise, those skills may be overemphasized and the direction of the team can shift.
- Convoluted tactics: Complicated, confusing, disjointed ways of getting things done are often a sign of that the team is unclear about its purpose.
- Low trust levels: People struggling to make their work purposeful may not trust others to help them in that struggle.
One technique is to re-evaluate your goal setting. Help the team set challenging goals for itself that are clearly tied to its purpose, and that will require ingenuity and renewed effort to achieve.
2. An empowering team structure:
An empowering structure helps the team make the most of its resources. Teams usually develop tacit, unwritten norms that govern the behavior of the members. Problems may develop when there is turnover in the team and new members work against the prevailing norms. The processes established for the team to carry out its work need to be reviewed periodically to see if they are working well. Teams that feel a sense of ownership about the procedures and processes they use will be motivated to follow them.
Symptoms of an un-empowered team:
- Frustration about roles: Undefined, missing, and duplicate roles can be sources of frustration.
- Can’t do attitude: The lack of a key skill and the inability to acquire that competency – can cause your team to stumble or even fail.
- Rigid structure or lack of structure: There has to be right balance of structure and autonomy in a team.
Set aside time at team meetings to re-visit, roles, responsibilities, norms, and procedures. Often in the midst of changes tensions arise between members because then don’t have a shared understanding of what is expected of one another – they are not on the same page. The team can use this time set aside to review and update procedures and norms, even when change is occurring.
3. Strong organizational support:
Sometimes, the cause of team failure lies outside. Not all required resources can be anticipated when a team is formed or launched; so organizational support involves provides the team with resources it needs on an ongoing basis. Organizational support can be in many forms; endorsements to take time on a project, team rewards, and opportunities for education or training.
Symptoms of low organizational support:
- Counterproductive rewards systems: If you’re rewarding individual effort instead of team effort, you’ll find that people won’t give their best to the team task.
- Roundabout tactics: if the team’s tactics are designed to get around the organization’s policies; that indicates that the norms of the organization are an obstacle to team success.
- Ill-designed information systems: Without clear channels and processes, information flow can get stalled; making it difficult for the team to share what they have learned or know.
- Out-of-kilter control systems: Unclear or overbearing control systems (i.e., inventory, human resources, financials, and regulations) can get in the way of team effectiveness.
Use a suitable rewards system, which can underscore the organization’s support. Rewards don’t always have to be financial. Highly visible recognition, celebrations of milestones, and even educational opportunities for members can serve as team-oriented rewards.
Please stay posted for my next installment of team success factors.
Greenberg, J. (2010). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.
Kabaga & Browing (2003). Maintaing Team Performance. For the Practicing Manager. Center for Creative Leadership.