Using workplace teams to solve problems and manage processes has become common. Although some teams deliver amazing results, many bog down in a quagmire of unresolved issues.
If team-based problem-solving strategies are going to be successful in your organization, you need to focus some of your energy on team building. When I work with groups on team building, I often focus a good part of my work on helping the group answer the following six questions.
- What is the team’s purpose? It should be easy to see and important to the organization. Measurable performance objectives help determine whether the team’s purpose justifies the resources it will consume. As a quick test, do an informal query with you staff. Ask each person what the purpose of your group is and see what they have to say. If you are lucky, most will be thinking the same thing that you are.
- What is the team’s plan for accomplishing its work? A successful team has a plan for reaching its objectives. It also has the discipline required for sticking to the plan and the wisdom to know when the team needs to flex with a changing situation. If you’ve been doing the same work for a long time, chances are good that your team is running on autopilot. It might be time to take a fresh look at the way the work gets done and see if it needs to change.
- What resources does the team need to complete its work? Teams without the resources to do the job, die slow and painful deaths. Great teams know what resources they need and make sure they have access to them when they are needed. These days I hear story after story of teams that have way too much to do and not enough people to get it done. Morale tanks, and this leads to an even larger gap between demand and capability.
- What is expected from each team member? The organization has expectations for the team. Team members have expectations of one another. Effective teams talk about these expectations to make sure everyone clearly understands what is expected and agrees to accept responsibility for delivering on those expectations. Most infighting in a team results when one member doesn’t meet the expectations of another. The problem is that often the people doing the disappointing had no clue about the expectations in the first place.
- How does the team make decisions? Teams are faced with hundreds of decisions. A successful team has figured out how to best make decisions and is consistent in making them. Throughout the decision-making process, the team skillfully manages the conflicts that inevitably arise. While deciding how to decide might seem like a waste of time, it is critical to a team’s ability to succeed.
- How do team members feel about being a part of this team? It is exciting to be part of a successful team. If the team lacks this energy and excitement, it is wise to go back and reexamine the answers to the first five questions.
Although there are more questions that could help predict a team’s probability for success, these six will start the team off in the right direction. If team members seriously consider the answers to these questions, they will find many improvement opportunities that have the potential of helping the team reach performance levels beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.