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Sowing the Field for Self Directed Work Teams in Your Organizations

Usually the first we try to do when we’re brought in to discuss building a culture around self directed work teams is to convince the organization not to do teaming.  We know, it sounds counter intuitive for a teaming firm like ours to convince the potential client not to do teams.  However, we take that approach for two reasons:

1.  Does the client know of the long-term, hard work and dedication that is needed in order to implement teams as a culture shift and are his/her senior leadership team on board? Are they okay with giving more authority and autonomy to their workers? Are they in it for the long haul (usually about 3-5 years for full transformation)?

2.  We are passionate about teams and we fully believe in their ability to transform an organization and the people of that organization. With that in mind, we see ourselves as guardians of teaming. We hold the concept and the idea of teams very close to our heart. We’re not about to let it become the flavor of the month for an organization, something to quickly dismiss when the organization has hit the muck in the middle with teaming.

Once we’ve established an understanding through multiple meetings, examples and trainings with an organization, we begin to peel back the layers of the onion that is teaming.  In that peeling of the teaming onion we introduce the organization to a rigorous series of team boot camps, a customized launch sequence of teams or mini business units, the star point concept, establishment of high performance meeting structure, team protocols and charters, as well as other teaming cornerstones.

Perhaps you’ve come across this post as you’re beginning to look at teaming as a way to engage your workforce, create accountability and dedication across all value streams, and produce a superior product or service.  We encourage you to look at some of the boxes that need to be crossed off in the pre-planning stages so that teams are more able to flourish in your organization.  Also, listen to our friend and current client Wade as he talks about why he moved towards a teaming model in the structuring of his plant.

Team Readiness Checklist: (Prior to launch of teaming)

  • Clearly defined purpose and direction for the team
  • Designated coach/sponsor identified and trained in self-direction
  • Team members identified
  • Plan in place for business impact when team launches
  • Appropriate shift design for some overlap between shifts
  • Identification of “mini-business unit” metrics to track specific to team’s deliverables
  • Safety protocols in place
  • Team charter including specific team goals and coach’s hand-off plan drafted
  • Defined level of authority in terms of decision making
  • Star Point Leaders identified and role descriptions completed
  • Understanding of organization and unit’s mission, vision and values
  • Process standards and documented work instruction in place
  • Knowledge of continuous process improvement
  • Communication/resource network defined
  • TWI/Job instruction training needs and method identified
  • Diverse skill sets represented (including communication/soft skills)
  • Role descriptions for Team Business Manager, Team Coach and Star Points completed
  • Teaming physical environment (white board, safe location for huddle)
  • Embedded roles, such as maintenance tech and material handling, identified and supported by functional areas
  • Organization chart modified with team identified
  • Technical/IT supports in place including SharePoint or Base Camp (i-clouds); basic computer skills in Outlook, Word and Excel

As we mentioned, teaming is not something to be taken lightly (something very apparent even from the list above).  Teaming at a high functioning level is not about trust falls or Kumbaya sessions; it’s about the belief that your workforce is smart and able to determine the work that needs to get done for the success of the organization and giving them the vehicle and freedom to do so.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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