Once a new team is created and briefed on a task, it is bound to face a certain amount of teething problems before the team finally gets its momentum going. The following pointers serve as a guideline for teams that are new to teamwork and are looking for ways to activate the team process:
Breaking-the-Ice: Before any serious teamwork can begin, the first step is of course to meet and interact with one another. The first few meetings should be used to break the ice, understand each other’s skills, to discuss the common purpose and ensure that there is goal clarity among all team members. During the breaking-the-ice stage, the team has to also find ways to facilitate smooth teamwork. They have to work out mutually acceptable procedures and approaches to help them operate effectively as a team. The team should also establish the behaviour norms and ground rules and create an effective system for information exchange.
Planning: The next step involves discussing the task in detail, strategising, brainstorming, and making decisions. In subsequent meetings, team members have to break down the work load into smaller action points and discuss their individual responsibilities. Clarity on the actions points is important if the team wants to implement their decisions properly.
Time Management: Once the task is broken down into manageable components and into definite action points, the team as a whole has to prioritize activities, develop a schedule and set out some timelines.
Interaction: The team should meet as often as necessary to thrash out issues that require a joint team input. They should set up regular review meetings to assess if the team’s overall performance goals are being met. It is also important for the team to use such meetings to integrate and coordinate their individual contribution on a task.
Besides the above pointers that are meant to help a new team activate itself, teamwork also involves more complex issues such as dealing with conflict, crisis management and joint decision-making.
Dealing with Teamwork Complexity
The team as a whole is accountable for accomplishing the task. Therefore all decisions of a strategic nature require a discussion where all team members give their input. During team discussions conflicts are bound to crop up and diverse viewpoints will surface. When conflicting viewpoints emerge during the course of discussing an issue of strategic importance, it broadens the scope of the discussion and induces the team to study different ways of dealing with a business problem. It is important for team members to treat such conflict as necessary and useful to the discussion.
Quite often, there is more than one good idea within the team. In such a situation, the team has to identify an appropriate method that can be applied to take the team process one step forward and translate the ideas stage into a fruitful exercise. Given below is a brief outline of two methods that can help a team build on its ideas and take good decisions:
- Edward De Bono’s Concepts: De Bono’s parallel thinking and lateral thinking concepts and the Six Thinking Hats program are powerful approaches for problem solving and creativity in decision making.
- Decision Trees: Decision trees are used to project the outcomes of different approaches and help in choosing the best approach that has the least risks associated with it.
The team has to utilise any good framework such as the above, to assess the ideas before they arrive at a decision.
A new team will certainly need some time before the individuals start operating as a real team but the key lies in gradually moving forward from the Breaking-the-Ice phase to the more complex aspects of teamwork. Teamwork is nothing to dread, nor is it entirely easy. Teams have a joint task and every individual on the team has to make the effort to create the right team environment. Iit is important that the team members get along well with each other and this can only be achieved by building rapport and mutual trust. At the core of everything, the team should have an overpowering need to excel and deliver great results. That’s the spirit that can activate and energise all aspects of the team’s performance.
A team that does not make the effort to take these few basic measures will become quite rudderless and find it difficult to move forward on a task and will find it even more difficult to meet the performance standards expected of them.