No matter where we go or who we talk with about implementing a team-based organization, there is usually the “we’re pretty much teaming now” or “our teams are really at a high performance already” response.
At that point we usually attend a team meeting, or watch a team perform on the floor, or we have some one-on-one meetings with people within the team. What usually emerges is that the meeting isn’t performed at a high level, the team is polite and critical feedback or advanced thinking isn’t occurring, or there are some real personality differences and conflicts within the team that are being swept under the rug.
A façade, or false sense, of teaming is occurring in that organization, if any teaming at all.
Somewhere people have gotten the notion (perhaps from sports teams or college study groups), that when we put a group of people together and tell them the direction they need to go, they will magically become a team. Our cultural orientation is toward an individualistic approach, not a collective, team approach and so we struggle when we actually have to perform at a level of excellence when other people are involved.
Likewise, on occasion teaming is used as a flavor of the month, a kumbaya moment for staff to have a day out, a motivational training event or just a gathering where enjoy each other’s company. These examples pale in comparison to the true structure, energy, rigor and focus needed to implement high performance, workplace teams.
Even some great companies that are producing good results and suggest that everyone works in teams, are very superficially teaming; if you scratch the surface you’ll see that there is no real teaming going on.
Ask yourself, as you look at this list: are we really teaming?
- A high performance, work team culture (HPWT) believes that teams provide the most effective solutions to customer needs, employee engagement and problem solution
- Teams promote an atmosphere where participation, challenge and confrontation are expected and welcome
- Trust and fault tolerance (acceptance of mistakes) are two cornerstones of teaming
- Teams recognize the importance of task, process and relationship balance in all interactions
- Teams acknowledge that everyone has more knowledge, experience and skill to contribute and must be encouraged to be engaged and involved
- All roles, including leadership, are rotated. No team job or position is any more or less important than any other
- Providing employees with skill, information and tools necessary to perform well is the primary job of management
- Employees are encouraged to work smarter and fix problems quicker
- Teams accept responsibility for themselves as individuals and the team under all circumstances
- Teams use performance standards, clear measurements and feedback to consistently meet the needs of internal and external customers
- Teams promote an environment of open, four-way communication regarding business and employee concerns; communication is open, honest and direct
- Management’s focus is on coaching, planning and problem solving, not commanding and controlling
- Conflict is seen as healthy and common place; people are expected to work to resolve their own conflicts before involving others
- Consensus decision making achieves the agreement and support needed for effective results; voting is discouraged and silence is seen as disagreement
- The organization’s structure is flat and lean to encourage communication and decision making at the appropriate levels. Silos are inappropriate
- Authority is increased on a graduated basis as the teams mature; authority and control are dispersed through all levels
- Teams “own” their own business and are collectively accountable for results and should experience the consequences of both their successes and their failures
- Measurement is an important part of knowing how a team is doing; the team owns and monitors its metrics
- Team members think the best of each other, before they think the worst
Let’s face it, the word team has become a four-letter word for many people who expect to see real teaming behaviors and then experience something quite different. It doesn’t take long for people to get discouraged or disillusioned with the idea of teaming. In today’s world of collaborations, cross-functional projects, working groups and joint goals, the ability to perform as a well-functioning team is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have.’ We must strip away the façade of teaming, roll up our sleeves and get to work if we are to truly be real teams.
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