The Secret to Creating Winning Teams
“Effective teams have a common and meaningful purpose that provides direction, momentum and commitment for members”.
Stephen P. Robbins, Author of Essentials of Organizational behaviour
Creating effective teams has to be a carefully thought out systematic process. Setting up a work team involves more than just putting together a few people and handing them a task. A team needs an effective team process in place for it to operate to the best of its ability. An effective team process involves providing clarity, proper guidelines for the teamwork, precise role definitions, adequate resources, well thought out appraisal systems and carefully designed training programs. Without a well thought out process, a winning team would be a pipe dream. Organisations have to focus on creating a whole system around a team in addition to identifying the right team mix. That’s when a team can start functioning effectively. The following check-list is aimed at bringing method into madness and provides a logical guideline for the steps involved in establishing a winning team.
12 Point Check-List For Creating an Effective Team Process
- Mission Clarity. What are the business objectives behind constituting this team? What do we want the team to accomplish?
- Skill Set. What are the necessary qualifications, experience, and expertise? What are the thinking patterns and personality traits necessary to accomplish this task?
- Identification and Matching. Who are the people who match the skills that we need on the team?
- Performance Goals. What are the specific goals that the team will work towards within the framework of the overall mission? What are the desired results from the team?
- Role Definition. What are the individual roles within the team? What are their responsibilities and who is expected to perform them?
- Ground Rules. What is the day-to-day work system for the team? What is the system for sharing information? How often will the team meet? What is the method to be used for keeping each other informed? What are the procedures at an operational level?
- Performance Assessment Parameters. What are the performance benchmarks for the team as a whole and individually? What is the appraisal system for the team as a whole and individually?
- Feedback Mechanisms. What is the process for monitoring the progress of the team and what kind of feedback is necessary to perform this?
- Organisation Input. What kind of orientation program is necessary for the team? How do we crystallize and communicate the business goals to the team? What are their on going and initial training needs?
- Resources. What is the support structure that this team requires to help them accomplish their task? Financial, manpower, technology, software tools, expert guidance, etc
- Recognition and Reward. What is the reward system for this team as a whole and individually?
- Team Building. What are the team oriented programs that will be relevant for this team to create cohesion and enhance its performance? How often do we need to conduct these programs?
The 12 Point Check-List outlined above is meant to help an organisation facilitate the team effort and stimulate good work. Most successful teams thrive and excel when they have definite, meaningful, realistic and measurable performance goals to work towards. Let’s take a slice out of a Hollywood movie to understand this facet of teamwork better.
‘Assault on Precinct 13’ is an Ethan Hawke movie released in 2005 (a remake of the 1976 action thriller).
It is New Year’s Eve, and it's the final night of the Precinct 13 police station. The station is due to close down the next day. Unexpectedly, crooked cops and criminals lay siege on the police station. In the story, the cops inside the station join forces with their prisoners to repel the assailants. Ethan Hawke says at one point, ‘We are all going to have to trust each other if we have to get through the night’. As the night progresses, the common purpose creates a sense of unity and co-operation in an unlikely and diverse ‘team’ comprising cops and prisoners. They miraculously work together to fight off the enemy.
From this example we can see that the mission, the challenge, the common goals and the sense of purpose in doing something of consequence brings with it an energizing effect in individual performance. It is therefore an inherent challenge and a high level of goal clarity that is often cited by experts as critical to the success and cohesion of a team.
The support structure in terms of resources, appraisal systems, team building programs, and rewards, all work in tandem to facilitate the output of high performance teams. Assessment and reward are intrinsic to getting the best out of the team process. Any outstanding work done by the team has to receive due recognition. Monitoring individual progress is equally important. Many individuals who are put into teams, have the fear that their work will not be noticed and that personal recognition may never come their way. It is therefore important for team leaders to keep track of what every individual is doing within the team.
Ground Rules will work more effectively when they are defined by the team members themselves. Setting the ground rules is an extremely useful method of organising work flow. The team members themselves can be encouraged to set out the guidelines before they kick-start the teamwork. Ground rules play a key role in ensuring that the team has certain procedures that they all agree upon and follow. It makes their work more organised and it also creates a level playing field for the team process. More importantly, it minimizes opportunity for interpersonal conflict.
While the key issue in any team is the profile and capabilities of the people selected, it is the whole package is important if you want teams to be effective and high performance. The end goal should be to build a complete system around the team so that you leave no stone unturned in creating a team and a relevant system that would be highly effective for a business task. The 12-point check-list is intended to help create that complete system.