If you don’t know where you are heading, how can you get there!? At times a team fails because the goals are unclear to the team members. This lack of direction and loss of focus in turn leads to wrongly prioritized activities while the real issues take a back seat. The team can be hard at work doing ‘something’, when what they are doing is not totally relevant to the successful completion of the task.
A company on a growth track put together an internal task force and gave them the job of finding ways to improve the efficiency of inter-departmental communication. The task force spent time with the various departments, studied their report and then developed fresh formats that they felt were a lot more comprehensive. When they presented the new reports to the management, they were surprised to find that the management was disappointed.
The team missed the boat on their real goals. The task was to improve the efficiency of inter-departmental communication. If they understood the task well they would have looked into solutions that simplified the existing system and they would have gone after solutions that ensured timely, accurate and constructive information and provided cost savings as well.
Improving the report formats was certainly an important step in updating the thoroughness of information but did not make the system more efficient in terms of timeliness, accuracy or cost. The team did not pick up on the complexity of the task nor did they establish their goals accurately, in the process they compromised their own effectiveness.
On ‘The Apprentice’, the reality TV show conducted by Donald Trump in the US, there was an episode where the team had to create a graffiti billboard for Sony’s Play Station 2. One team created a mural that wove in the game elements while the other team created a streetscape mural that echoed the lifestyle of the neighbourhood where the billboard was situated. The team that won was naturally the team that created the mural that would sell the company’s product. The task was to sell the game. The other team lost sight of the business objectives, and the team leader was ‘fired’ from the show!
Back to Diagnosing Team Failure