Leader Volume 9, Number 2
Humphrey and Mr. Stokes, of Pinnacle Performance Group in Shawnee,
KS (firstname.lastname@example.org), are authors of 21stcentury.team
and Team Guides (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer,
San Francisco, CA, 1999).
A team, united by
a common direction and given appropriate support, can provide
great results. If teams can be so productive, then why have so
many organizations seen so little positive results from their
organizations throw employees into a few hours of team training
and then turn them free to do “team stuff.” No wonder such
teams aren’t very effective.
Here are four
significant strategies for team success: approach, deployment,
improvement, and motivation.
preparation of work teams begins, a total assessment is needed of
the organization’s mission, goals, strategic plans, commitment
to employee involvement, etc. Teams must be cut from the same
piece of cloth that other company priorities are cut.
leadership skills. There must be total consensus if teams are
going to become your firm’s future. While champions of teams are
needed in the early start-up efforts, ultimately every company
employee must think, talk, respond, and live teams.
Entertain just a
few of the considerations:
• Do we have a
business plan for the organization? Are we addressing five to ten
years into the future?
• Would our
customers/suppliers benefit from a team-based approach? What proof
exists to support such benefits?
• How customer-centered are we? What proof do we have of such a
• How would work teams change our daily operations?
• Are we open to “opening our books” to our workforce?
• Who is going to champion teams? Do we need a steering team;
who is on it; and what education will they need?
• Would our internal processes benefit from work teams? What
• Is our company prepared to commit to five to ten years of
change before we really see a different work environment?
• What level of education do our employees possess? What
“basics” of education will we need to address first?
• What team structure will be best? (i.e., size,
specialties/skills, cross-functional, leadership, etc.)
• Will work teams give us greater speed and flexibility?
Quality? Customer awareness?
• What percent of our budget are we ready to commit to
recreating our culture and work environment to suit a team-based
consideration demands attention and discussion by senior leaders.
There will be a great amount of time required to re-engineer your
organization for teams. The costs for education and allowing
people to “fail” in order to gain experience are also
significant. Companies who choose not to address the
considerations listed above will induce future team struggles,
possibly even failure.
• Evaluation of organization’s culture and future growth
• Assessment of senior leader’s commitment to teams and
• Appraisal of satisfaction and impact of teams upon customer
• Examination of internal processes and potential for greater
• Financial projections for total costs associated with change
to team-based management.
• Development of a cross-level steering team to monitor
deployment; assess needs of workforce; measure team growth;
provide support to teams and to be a conduit between teams and
• Senior leaders and steering team to make site visits to other
organizations engaged in moving to team-based work environments.
• Preparing new communication links within organization.
only begin when the approach has clearly established the
organization’s need for teams, confirmed the commitment from
senior leadership, included teams as part of the strategic
direction, and accounted for the financial investment that will be
Deployment is the
preparation and implementation of the team culture. This strategy
is the one most organizations would prefer doing first. Without
exercising Strategy #1, however, the deployment will be a very
There are several
questions that should be considered:
• What mix of in-house training, computer-based training,
videotape instruction, etc. is best avenue for learning?
• Do we have capable internal trainers and facilitators? If
not, do we train internal people or consider outside experts?
• What work (production) schedule requirements must be
• What should the size of training classes be? Should they be
mixed or should teams experience training together?
• When and where will training take place? Where will teams
hold meetings, how often, and how long?
• What measurements will be used to track team performance?
• How will teams and individuals be assessed?
• What involvement will department and senior leadership have
with training and team life?
• Who will we educate first? What assistance will be provided
• How will this new direction be unveiled? Who will provide
• Selection of education topics and material for team
• Selection of external training resource or internal trainers.
• Rollout schedule of training and formalizing teams.
• Selection and training team sponsors.
• Establishment of team measurements.
• Presentation of the first ninety days for teams including
meeting schedule and agendas.
stumble. The improvement strategy first recognizes needed
adjustments for a successful team culture and then makes them.
• Has formal training addressed our specific needs?
• What job skills do we need to move our team’s impact
• What resources are needed to make our teams more effective?
What budget adjustments do we need to make?
• What stage of team growth are our teams experiencing? What
will it take to move them forward?
• How effective do our teams address people and process
• Is our communication system working? What future improvements
will be needed?
• How accountable are our teams for performance results? Making
• Have our customer/supplier relationships improved? Do our
teams have any measurable impact on these relationships?
• What involvement does senior leadership have within the
• Do we have improvements in our processes, “cycle time”,
reduced steps, etc.?
• Are teams taking on responsibilities previously performed by
supervisors and managers?
• What roles do our front-line leaders now fulfill?
• How are new employees being oriented about teams?
• Tracking team performance through measurements and
• Job skill assessment and identification of future skill
• Building greater team-to-customer involvement.
• Development of new employee orientation and training program.
• Establishment of regular team presentations.
• Realignment of the steering team and support roles of
• Conducting a team and culture survey.
At the heart of
any management approach is the spirit in which life is lived. That
is, are those involved motivated to play the game by the rules?
This fourth strategy is perhaps the strategy that most
organizations are missing.
After the newness
of teams rubs off and everyone has been educated, what keeps the
fires burning? Motivation is the self-starting drive that must be
present within the company’s culture. Senior leadership can
establish accountability checks that serve to keep teams leaning
into the wind. Some motivation will be impacted by pay, by
recognition, by “ownership,” but the vast majority of
motivation will still come from the individual who realizes the
benefits of team life.
questions should be addressed:
• Is some form of team-based pay viable? Should teams
participate in interviewing, hiring, counseling, and termination?
• What recognition options would generate more team success?
• What costs are associated with opening up our organization to
others as a model of team-based life?
• What opportunities are there to increase team contact with
customers and suppliers?
• What additional roles and responsibilities can be turned over
• Which employees would be interested in serving as a trainers
or “consultants” to other teams?
• Compensation alternatives.
• Monetary and non-monetary recognition.
• Accountability checks for senior leaders, front line
leadership, and teams.
• Creating greater understanding between people, teams, and
• Creating ownership of tasks, roles, and responsibilities.
surprised at the impact, to your company and to the individuals
involved, of a good
strategy for using teams.