Is Your Team REALLY a Team? Why Instant Pudding Doesn’t Cut It
Teamwork is talked about widely in organizations, but often with little understanding of what it means. And now with the transformations of the workplace due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic—changes early in their infancy on how organizations structure themselves and how employees work—the ability of people to work in teams faces new challenges.
Management typically wants immediate results—teams that are formed and ready to go overnight–something like an instant pudding. Well, that pudding will take longer to prepare as a result of organizational transformations.
This post, the first in a series on teamwork, looks at the six basic elements of teams. First, here’s one definition of a team (from Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith):
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
Think about that definition for a moment. What’s your reaction?
There are two key prerequisites to becoming a team. One is that the group of people involved has a shared, common purpose; the second is interdependence among the members. Without BOTH of these present the group will never become a team. It’s impossible.
It’s essential that the members of a team be committed fully to their common purpose and performance goals. A common purpose takes time to develop, but it gives the team an identity. Remember this: team purpose = team performance. They’re inseparable.
To determine if your group is a team, or has the potential, answer the following questions.
1) How large is your group?
• Is communication frequent?
• Do you meet often, and are discussions constructive?
• Do people understand their roles?
2) Are their sufficient, or potential, skills to achieve your goals?
• Are the three types of skills present: interpersonal, technical, and problem-solving?
• What skills are missing?
• Are people willing to learn new skills and to help one another?
3) Is there a clear and meaningful purpose to which people will strive to reach?
• Is it a team or organizational purpose?
• Does everyone understand it the same way?
• Do people think it’s important and inspiring?
4) Are there specific performance goals that everyone agrees on?
• Are they organizational, team, or the leader’s goals?
• Can they be measured easily?
• Do they allow for small wins along the way?
5) Is there a commonly accepted approach to work?
• Does it maximize the contributions of people?
• Does it allow open interaction among people to solve problems?
• Are new ideas encouraged?
6) Is there mutual accountability among people?
• Is there individual and mutual accountability for the group’s performance and results?
• Are people clear on what they’re accountable for, individually and mutually?
• Is there the view that only the team can fail?
These questions need to be asked and reflected upon to determine whether any elements of teamwork are present in your work setting. Pseudo teams abound in organizations. However, what we’re striving for is a common purpose and interdependency of effort as the key ingredients. The rest will come with dedicated effort.
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. — Andrew Carnegie
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