Identifying Symptoms of Team Ineffectiveness

Tim runs a small business and is a long time customer of a software firm that put together his information systems. There had been some staff turnover in the software firm over the years, but the quality of the work and service they offered was always maintained. They had a good working relationship.

However in the last year things had changed; there was a new team that handled his work, and things hadn’t been the same since then. Initially it was small glitches that he ignored given the long-time association he had with the firm, but now the problems seemed to be escalating. Deadlines were constantly missed, and he was not kept informed of the delays. Everybody on the team was extremely intelligent and competent but they never seemed to provide a service of the same quality.

A few months back Tim had a meeting with Mark the team leader and discussed the problems with him. He was given an assurance that Mark would look into the matter so the problems would not crop up again.

However, this wasn’t the case, the new software module that the team installed had serious problems and didn’t meet up with the requirements laid out in the brief. Tim felt he had no choice but to ask for a meeting with the Managing Director of the firm to express his concerns.

The warning signs that things are not quite right within a team become evident to the people who interact with the team long before major problems set in. These warning signs usually manifest in certain types of behaviour or performance related problems. Assessment of a team usually takes place at two levels:

a) The process and the behavioural aspects of teamwork
b) The output from the teamwork and performance of the team

The symptoms of team ineffectiveness can be gauged by observing the process followed and behavioural aspects that are evident within the team. For example; the way they talk to and about each other.

Symptoms to watch out for:

  • Friction and disagreements
  • Hearing complaints or gossip from various sources
  • Lack of loyalty towards one another
  • Attention and energy focused outside of the teams objectives
  • Team members being absent from work or scheduled team meetings
  • Poor co-ordination of team activities, disorganized and chaotic handling of tasks
  • Falling behind on deadlines or inability to meet targets
  • Drop in the efficiency or productivity level of the team

Consequences of an Ineffective Team: The problems within the team can eventually translate into problems for the company, impacting either on the bottom line or in its business relationships, e.g:

  • Customer complaints could increase
  • Revenue losses because of business going to another firm
  • No success in any of the new business pitches made by the team

It is important for companies to act immediately if they see any of these symptoms of team ineffectiveness and investigate the cause, a few examples of which are below:

  • Role clarity
  • Lack of clear cut goals
  • Poor leadership
  • Inadequate training
  • Differences in work styles
  • Poor planning

So, can you identify the symptoms of team ineffectiveness? You need to, as without this first fundamental step, you can’t go on to investigate different processes and approaches to build a truly dynamic and effective team for your organisation.

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