"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done."
– Peter Drucker
What's That Spell?
In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a
crime they didn’t commit. These four men promptly escaped from a maximum ?
security stock-ade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by
the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a
problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can
hire the A-Team.
The A-Team went off the air in 1987 ?still wanted by the government ?but
television has never produced a better blueprint for team building. The
Key elements of it’s effectiveness: a cigar- chomping master of disguise,
an ace pilot, a devilishly handsome con man, a mechanic with a mohawk, and
an amazingly sweet van. Those particulars might not translate to all
business settings. But clear definition of roles is a hallmark of
effective collaboration. So is small team size ?though four is slightly
below what some researchers say is the optimal number, 4.6. And the
presence of an outside threat ?like imminent recapture by government
forces ?likewise correlates with high team cohesion. To wit: France and
England, which blooded each other for centuries before they noticed?
Another universal characteristic of teams is that they’re well, universal.
If you work for a living, we’re guessing you interact with other humans.
(Light-house keepers, we’ll see you next time.)
Most of what you’ve read about teamwork is bunk. So here’s a place to
start: Tear down those treacly motivational posters of rowers rowing and
pipers piping. Gather every recorded instance of John Madden calling
someone a “team player.?Cram it all into a dumpster and light the thing
on fire. Then settle in to really think about what it means to be a team.
We’re certainly not against the concept of teamwork. But that’s the point:
All the happy-sounding twaddle obscures the actual practice of it. And
teamwork is a practice. Great teamwork is an outcome; you can only create
the conditions for it to flourish. Like getting rich or falling in love,
you cannot simply will it to happen.
We will go further and say: Teamwork is an individual skill. That happens
to be the title of a book. Christopher Avery writes, “Becoming skilled at
doing more with others may be the single most important thing you can do?
to increase your value ?regardless of your level of authority. As work is
increasingly broken down into team-sized increments, Avery’s argument
goes, blaming a “bad team?for one’s difficulties is, by definition, a
personal failure, since the very notion of teamwork implies a shared
responsibility. You can’t control other people behaviour, but you can
control your own. Which means that there is an “I?in team after all.
(Especially in France, where they spell it equipe.)
Yet this is not the selfish “I?that got so much attention during the “me?
decade; it’s the affiliatory “I?that built America’s churches and fought
its wars. Neil Armstrong didn’t get to the moon through rugged
individualism; there is no such thing as a self-made astronaut. “Men work
together,?wrote Robert Frost, “whether they work together or apart.?If
you think this is mushy stuff, marginal to the daily battle of business,
consider what is happening at Sony. CEO Howard Stringer and President
Ryoji Chubachi are trying to restore the fighting spirit (and higher
profits) at a company built on decentralised teams. Their theme: Sony
Here’s both the problem and the promise of cooperation. Humans aren’t
hard-wired to succeed or fail at it. We can go either way. In study of
groupwork in school classrooms, the late Stanford sociologist Elizabeth
Cohen found that if kids are simply put into teams and told to solve a
problem, the typical result is one kid dominating and the other looking
totally disengaged. But if teachers take the time to establish norms ?
roles, goals, etc. ?“not only will [the children] behave according to the
new norms, but they will enforce rules on other group members.?Perhaps to
a fault. “Even very young students,?Cohen wrote, “can be heard lecturing
to other members of the group on how they ought to be behaving.?br>
Economists have long assumed that success boils down to personal
incentives. We’ll cooperate if it’s in our self-interest, and we won’t if
it’s not. Then a team of researchers led by Linnda Caporael thought to
ask: Would people cooperate without any incentives? The answer was ?gasp!
- yes, under the right conditions. Participants often cited “group
To economists, shocking. To anyone who’s been part of a successful team,
not shocking at all. Life’s richest experiences often happen in concert
with others ?your garage band, your wedding, tobogganing. The boss who
assumes that worker’s interests are purely mercenary will end up with a
group of mercenaries. No battery of team exercises can fix that situation
?especially if they involve spanking your colleagues with yard signs.
When a sales office of a home security company, Alarm One, adopted that
the practice, a 53- year-old employee later sued for emotional distress.
(A jury awarded her $1.2 million in April.)
Again, let the greats show the way. During a public appearance in 2000, an
A-Team cast member was asked by a fan to name his favourite co-star.
“Listen,?Mr. T responded. “That’s wrong for me to pick a favourite,
because I’m a team player and we are a team. Remember, they say? here it
comes again ?“there’s no “I?in team.?No, but there is a “T? And pity
the fool who forgets it.
Courtesy: Fortune International
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence
A team is a group of people who perform interdependent tasks to work
toward a common mission
What is a Team and Types of Teams
of today’s team concepts originated in the United States during the 1970s,
through the use of quality circles or employee involvement initiatives.
But the initiatives were often seen as separate from normal work
activities, not as integrated with them.
Team designs have since evolved
into a broader concept that includes many types of teams formed for
Types of Teams
Three primary types of teams are typically used within the business
1. Process improvement teams are project teams that focus on improving or
developing specific business processes. These teams come together to
achieve a specific goal, are guided by a well-defined project plan and
have a negotiated beginning and end.
2. Work groups, sometimes called “natural teams,?have responsibility for
a particular process (for example, a department, a product line or a stage
of a business process) and work together in a participative environment.
The degree of authority and autonomy of the team can range from relatively
limited to full self-management. The participative approach is based on
the belief that employees will be more productive if they have a higher
level of responsibility for their work.
Learning from peers
Comfort knowing help is there
Focus on the organisation
Responsibility for the team
Simple, visible measurement
Individual opinion about what’s important
Reliance on individual abilities
Panic when workload peaks
What’s in it for me?
Stress on the “supervisor?/span>
3. Self-managed teams directly manage the day-to-day operation of their
particular process or department. They are authorised to make decisions on
a wide range of issues (for example, safety, quality, maintenance,
scheduling and personnel). Their responsibilities also include processes
traditionally held by managers, such as goal-setting, allocation of
assignments and conflict resolution.
Before anyone would try to implement something as aggressive as a self-managed (and subsequently self-directed) team, they should know and be able to articulate the expected benefits. A mature self-managed team, when compared to typical hierarchical management, would have measured results showing.
Some of the lessons we have learned in implementing teams are summarised below:
1. To create a team, a demand for performance is more important than team-building exercises.
You can get a group together and train them in teamwork for weeks but they won’t be a team until they have a common understanding of the need to perform. First comes the strategic plan, then the tasks needed to carry out the plan, finally, teams are formed to do the tasks.
2. Team basics are often overlooked. Team basics are: size, purpose, goals, skills, approach, and accountability.
3. Teams at the top are the most difficult. Executives have complex, long-term challenges, heavy demands on their time, and they got where they are by being John Waynes.
4. There’s no need to throw out the hierarchy. Teams are the best way to integrate across structural boundaries. They are the best way to design and energize core processes.
Teams permit performance and learning at the same time. There is no better way to become a learning organisation than to have a team-based structure which thrives on people learning from peers. The learning endures.
Contributed by :
Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Player
"Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success."
– Henry Ford
"The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team."
– Lewis B. Ergen
If you had the opportunity to
start a new team and select anyone from your organisation to be on it, who
would you pick? Assuming that people have the right technical skills for
the work to be done, what other factors would you use to select your team
Teams need strong team players to perform well. But what defines such
people? Read on.
You can count on a reliable team member who gets work done and does his
fair share to work hard and meet commitments. He or she follows through on
assignments. Consistency is key. You can count on him or her to deliver
good performance all the time, not just some of the time.
Teams need people who speak up and express their thoughts and ideas
clearly, directly, honestly, and with respect for others and for the work
of the team. That’s what it means to communicate constructively. Such a
team member does not shy away from making a point but makes it in the best
way possible ?in a positive, confident, and respectful manner.
Good listeners are essential for teams to function effectively. Teams need
team players who can absorb, understand, and consider ideas and points of
view from other people without debating and arguing every point. Such a
team member also can receive criticism without reacting defensively. Most
important, for effective communication and problem solving, team members
need the discipline to listen first and speak second so that meaningful
Functions as an active participant
Good team players are active participants. They come prepared for team
meetings and listen and speak up in discussions. They’re fully engaged in
the work of the team and do not sit passively on the sidelines.
Team members who function as active participants take the initiative to
help make things happen, and they volunteer for assignments. Their whole
approach is can-do: “What contribution can I make to help the team achieve
Shares openly and willingly
Good team players share. They’re willing to share information, knowledge,
and experience. They take the initiative to keep other team members
Much of the communication within teams takes place informally. Beyond
discussion at organised meetings, team members need to feel comfortable
talking with one another and passing along important news and information
day-to-day. Good team players are active in this informal sharing. They
keep other team members in the loop with information and expertise that
helps get the job done and prevents surprises.
Cooperates and pitches in to help
Cooperation is the act of working with others and acting together to
accomplish a job. Effective team players work this way by second nature.
Good team players, despite differences they may have with other team
members concerning style and perspective, figure out ways to work together
to solve problems and get work done. They respond to requests for
assistance and take the initiative to offer help.
Teams often deal with changing conditions ?and often create changes
themselves. Good team players roll with the punches; they adapt to
ever-changing situations. They don’t complain or get stressed out because
something new is being tried or some new direction is being set.
In addition, a flexible team member can consider different points of views
and compromise when needed. He or she doesn’t hold rigidly to a point of
view and argue it to death, especially when the team needs to move forward
to make a decision or get something done. Strong team players are firm in
their thoughts yet open to what others have to offer ?flexibility at its
Works as a problem-solver
Teams, of course, deal with problems. Sometimes, it appears, that’s the
whole reason why a team is created ?to address problems. Good team
players are willing to deal with all kinds of problems in a
solutions-oriented manner. They’re problem-solvers, not problem-dwellers,
problem-blamers, or problem-avoiders. They don’t simply rehash a problem
the way problem-dwellers do. They don’t look for others to fault, as the
blamers do. And they don’t put off dealing with issues, the way avoiders
Team players get problems out in the open for discussion and then
collaborate with others to find solutions and form action plans.
Treats others in a respectful and supportive
Team players treat fellow team members with courtesy and consideration ?
not just some of the time but consistently. In addition, they show
understanding and the appropriate support of other team members to help
get the job done. They don’t place conditions on when they’ll provide
assistance, when they’ll choose to listen, and when they’ll share
information. Good team players also have a sense of humor and know how to
have fun (and all teams can use a bit of both), but they don’t have fun at
someone else’s expense. Quite simply, effective team players deal with
other people in a professional manner.
Shows commitment to the team
Strong team players care about their work, the team, and the team’s work.
They show up every day with this care and commitment up front. They want
to give a good effort, and they want other team members to do the same.
Team players who show commitment don’t come in any particular style or
personality. They don’t need to be rah-rah, cheerleader types. In fact,
they may even be soft-spoken, but they aren’t passive. They care about
what the team is doing and they contribute to its success ?without
needing a push.
Team players with commitment look beyond their own piece of the work and
care about the team’s overall work. In the end, their commitment is about
winning ?not in the sports sense of beating your opponent but about
seeing the team succeed and knowing they have contributed to this success.
Winning as a team is one of the great motivators of employee performance.
Good team players have and show this motivation.
(Adapted From: Managing Teams For Dummies)
Characteristics of a Good Team
High level of interdependence among members
Leader has good people skills and is committed to team approach
Each member is willing to contribute
A relaxed climate for communication
Members develop a mutual trust
The group and individuals are prepared to take risks
Group is clear about goals and establishes targets
Member roles are defined
Members know how to examine errors without personal attacks
The group has capacity to create new ideas
Each member knows he can influence the agenda
Manasi Annigeri, Faarah Dordy, Tanushree Trivedi, Purnima Deshmukh
Why Teams Don't Perform?
Knowing And Understanding
The Performance Barriers
"Teamwork: Simply stated, it is
less me and more we."
"The basic building block of good teambuilding is for a leader to promote the feeling that every human being is unique and adds value."
"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it."
- H.E. Luccock
that aren’t performing well... or those being formed that won’t ever
perform well... are the victims of a mismatch of people with the project,
the process, and the product. In quantifying these factors we often
overlook the most complex and critical success element... the people who
will do the work. While there are numerous reasons why teams fail, we have
identified those that are most often the root cause. This paper discusses
ten key reasons teams don’t perform as well as they could.
1. The People Don’t Understand The Team’s Mission
The team needs a clearly understood and agreed upon objective, i.e., why
it is being formed and what it is expected to accomplish. What is the
team’s active time frame? Is it event or calendar driven? Is this an
ad-hoc, single project team, a cross-functional/department work team, a
continuing, open-ended assignment, or... spell it out. How will the team
and its members interface with the rest of the organisation? What will be
its reporting process? What are its constraints (functional, political,
etc.). Is this a research/study team, an idea or concept team, an
implementation team, an advisory team? And, what will be its work product?
2. The Team Lacks Empowerment
Once the team’s mission is set, thoroughly define its authority. Can it
take action on its own without further authorisation or approval? Is its
role advise and consent, or define and do? The team must have management’s
affirmative and active support. Its authority must be explicitly
communicated to the rest of the organisation so that others may clearly
understand the team’s goal and role. This issue is critically important
with self-directed teams; what real muscle does the team have and what
resources are at its disposal?
3. Team Members Are Not Matched To The Mission
Once the team’s mission and empowerment status have been determined, the
process of building the team can begin. Start by identifying the requisite
functional, technical, experiential, and other background skills that will
be needed by the prospective members. Then, closely examine the team’s
intended work product to determine the best mix of thinkers, doers,
analyzers, innovators, planners, implementors, builders, crafters,
documenters, and researchers. These natural approaches to accomplishment
are critically important for the team’s success, and often make the
difference between “mission accomplished,?or holding a postmortem
critique to determine what went wrong.
4. There Is A Poor Fit Of Each Member To His/Her
Poor judgement in the formation of a team precludes the team’s full
creative capacity from ever being realised, i.e., the team has a short oar
before it ever begins the race. Evaluate each member in terms of two
performance perspectives; the individual’s actual performance and
expertise prior to the team assignment, and their team performance
potential. The team requires certain skill-sets, behavioural and
personality traits, and individual approaches to team work. To perform
effectively, a team needs to operate as a unified group, and within a
larger environment with a possibly different culture than that which
develops inside the team. Each member has a role which must not be
materially different than that demonstrated outside of the team. The team
environment may alter an individual’s conduct by degree, but it is
unreasonable to expect a completely different kind of performance in a
team role than has other wise been demonstrated.
5. People Don’t Understand Each Other’s Natural
Inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi is the sage advice to, “Know
thyself.?The corollary to this advice is ?.. and then know thy fellow
teammate.?Every team member is unique in some way that allows each to
contribute a special knack or gift to the team. Each member knows what
he/she will or won’t do, or resists doing. Knowing the other person’s
approach to team work is a powerful tool in building the needed synergy.
Assumptions about another person’s conduct are quite often erroneous,
leading to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mistakes... and to a
missed mission. Know each other, then the expectations of and for the team
will be realistically based.
6. No Development Of The Individuals?Innate
Since each member brings their own skill and behaviour set to the team,
the team leader must allow that strength to flourish. Otherwise, each
person will not produce to her/his full capability, and neither will the
team reach its combined potential. Team membership should provide the
opportunity for continued individual development and contribution, not
stunt it or set it aside for the time being.
7. Team Roles Don’t Match Individuals?Personal
Every individual has their own set of professional aspirations. Each
person hopes to realise at least some of his/her goals or to make
significant progress toward them in every assignment. Most of us not only
need to be recognised for our noteworthy achievements, but most
importantly for those achievements that are on our own path to success;
affirmation that we are indeed on the right path. An individual’s team
role is really a subset of her/his overall mission within the company, and
therefore must be compatible with the reason why that person joined the
company. The team role must effectively answer a subtle phrasing of the
question, “What’s in it for me??which really addresses more than just the
need for continued employment or the chance to demonstrate one’s “team
spirit.?We all need to feel good about our accomplishments, and that’s a
very personal thing. Do you know the personal goals of each team member?
8. Performance Isn’t Linked To Organisational
In addition to aligning an individual’s team role with his/her personal
goals is the need to firmly link a team member’s performance to the goals
of the organisation. The answer to “Why are we doing this??must emphasize
the organisation’s need for team mission accomplishment which can be
realised only through individual performance. As individuals, the need to
be a part of ... not apart from... the “big picture?can be achieved
through an understanding of how one’s team performance contributes to the
company’s goals. The team’s mission must be to help the organisation
achieve its mission. If the team fails, the organisation will suffer. If
the team succeeds, individual recognition and reward will come from both
the team and the organisation.
9. There’s No Linkage Of Personal Performance And
Teams have both a responsibility and an obligation for performance. One
does not abrogate his/her individual responsibility for performance by
becoming part of a team. A team must not be a hiding place for someone
thinking to shirk the “burden?of individual performance. If anything,
team members are “under the microscope?to an even greater degree.
Outstanding performance on a team quite often leads to more rapid and
significant advancement toward one’s goals than might otherwise be the
case. Similarly, the weak team member must bear an appropriate portion of
the responsibility for a team’s failure.
10. Inability To Transform Team Member Conflict
“Synergy?does not imply “one big happy family.?What it means for a team
is the blending of often diverse and unique individual skills and
sometimes conflicting behaviours into a mutually supportive effort focused
on an objective to which all members commit themselves. “The total being
greater than the sum of its parts,?will be realised only if management
and the team itself... meaning the individual members... can direct and
channel their individual strengths into a cohesive gel that allows each to
work to her/his fullest and best capability. Team members must also rely
on each other to offset any individual weaknesses, shortcomings, or
resistance. Team members must barter their skills, behaviours, and
approaches in a manner which does indeed “accentuate the positive?and
which turns controversy, diversity, and differences of opinion into the
“stuff?from which innovation and new ideas and processes are spawned. If
the team is forced to operate at the level of its common denominator,
there will be no synergy and the team will fail. Management and the team
leader(s) must absolutely know how to structure the team (its
infrastructure) in a manner that makes this synergy possible. It all
starts with knowing and understanding the team members as individuals who
each bring their own skills, motivations, behaviours, energies and foibles
to the task.
Minoo J. Sukhia
How to Make Teams Effective - Guidelines for Managers
People in every
workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team,
but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to
develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is
a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot
to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your
In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of
the organisation. You work with fellow members of the organisation to
produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and
you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other
organisation members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger
picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger
You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of
developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a
People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team
building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures
by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to
build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building
an effective, focused work team when you consider team building
Twelve Cs for Team Building
Executives, managers and organisation staff members universally explore
ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based,
horizontal, organisation structures as the best design for involving all
employees in creating business success.
No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous
improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work
teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. Few
organisations, however, are totally pleased with the results their team
improvement efforts produce. If your team improvement efforts are not
living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell
you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work
teams, requires attention to each of the following.
"T.E.A.M = Together everyone achieves more"
"There is not I in Teamwork."
Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated its
expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team
members understand why the team was created? Is the organisation
demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources
of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient
emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and
interest directed its way by executive leaders?
Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they
understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organisation
attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their
team’s importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team
understand where its work fits in the total context of the organisation’s
goals, principles, vision and values?
Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the
team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team
mission and expected outcomes? Do team members perceive their service as
valuable to the organisation and to their own careers? Do team members
anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect
their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and
challenged by the team opportunity?
Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As
an example, in a process improvement, is each step of the process
represented on the team?)
Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and
capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not,
does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has
the resources, strategies and support needed to accomplish its mission?
Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its
own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission. Has the team
defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and
contributions; its timelines; and how it will measure both the outcomes of
its work and the process the team followed to accomplish their task? Does
the leadership team or other coordinating group support what the team has
Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership
necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members
clearly understand their boundaries? How far may members go in pursuit of
solutions? Are limitations (i.e. monetary and time resources) defined at
the beginning of the project before the team experiences barriers and
Is the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all
members of the organisation? Has the organisation defined the team’s
authority? To make recommendations? To implement its plan? Is there a
defined review process so both the team and the organisation are
consistently aligned in direction and purpose? Do team members hold each
other accountable for project timelines, commitments and results? Does the
organisation have a plan to increase opportunities for self-management
among organisation members?
Does the team understand team and group process? Do members understand the
stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively
interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and
responsibilities of team members? team leaders? team recorders? Can the
team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and
measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team
charter? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas
such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting
management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its
Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an
established method for the teams to receive honest performance feedback?
Does the organisation provide important business information regularly? Do
the teams understand the complete context for their existence? Do team
members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members
bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and
Innovation: Is the organisation really interested in change? Does it value
creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas? Does it reward people
who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does it reward the
people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the
training, education, access to books and films, and field trips necessary
to stimulate new thinking?
Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements?
Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Is
reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organisation? Do team
members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing
rather than resolving problems? Is the organisation designing reward
systems that recognise both team and individual performance? Is the
organisation planning to share gains and increased profitability with team
and individual contributors? Can contributors see their impact on
increased organisation success?
Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups
to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource
allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the
concept of the internal customer—the next process, anyone to whom they
provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department
teams common and working together effectively? Is the organisation
developing a customer-focused process-focused orientation and moving away
from traditional departmental thinking?
Change: Does the organisation recognise that the team-based,
collaborative, empowering, enabling organisation of the future is
different than the traditional, hierarchical organisation it may currently
be? Is the organisation planning to or in the process of changing how it
rewards, recognises, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and
manages the people it employs? Does the organization plan to use failures
for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organisation recognise
that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will
receive in pay back from the work of the teams?
Spend time and attention on each of these twelve tips to ensure your work
teams contribute most effectively to your business success.
Your team members will love you, your business will soar, and empowered
people will “own?and be responsible for their work processes. Can your
work life get any better than this?
Manasi Annigeri, Faarah Dordy,
Tanushree Trivedi, Purnima Deshmukh
“Meetings are BOW-ring?/font>
"Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work a company work, a society work, a civilization work."
Those two responses almost always come up whenever asked. Others that also come up a lot are: Wastes of time, non-productive, confrontational, inefficient, repetitive, and a number of other negative descriptions. Every once in a while, we get a response like positive, informative, or necessary, but usually the other participants gang-up against the person very quickly.
Most people believe that business meetings are necessary evils, and in many cases, they are. But one of the most important things we can remember about business meetings is to NOT have one unless it is absolutely necessary. When your employees and coworkers are in staff meetings, they are not producing. Nothing is ever produced until after the meeting is over. Some of the advices to make meetings more effective are to have fewer of them.
The tips below are strategies to conduct good meetings :
1. Have an Agenda: Outline ahead of time what points will be covered in the meeting. Write it out, and distribute it to participants ahead of time. This will help avoid the “chasing of rabbits,” and help participants be more prepared for the meeting.
2. Follow the Agenda: This sounds very elementary, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who take the time to create an agenda, and then totally disregard the agenda during the meeting.
3. Limit the Agenda to Three Points or Less: Ask yourself, “What are the three most important things we need to cover in the meeting?” Limit the agenda to these three points. The rest of the things you wanted to cover, by definition, weren’t really that important anyway, so why waste everyone’s time?
4. Set a Time Limit: Setting the time limit for the meeting to be no longer than 30-minutes. In future meetings, shorten the time by five minutes until the time limit is 15-minutes or less. The leader of the meeting will become much more efficient, and the participants will become much more focused as well. When the time limit is up, end the meeting. You may not get to cover every single thing that you wanted to the first couple of times you try this, but within a short time, you will find that the major information points are being discussed and decisions are being made very efficiently.
5. Encourage Participation from Everyone, but don’t Force Them: Instead of going around the table and asking for opinions or input, just ask a question and let people volunteer their answers. There will be times during any meeting that each person will “phase out” (especially if it is a looooong and BOW-ring meeting.) If we call on every person, it wastes time, and puts people on the spot. Other ways of encouraging participation is to just ask a question, and after someone answers, say something like, “Good, let’s hear from someone else.” If there are people in your meeting who rarely speak, instead of calling on them directly, you might say something like, “I value the opinion of each of you, does anyone else have something to add.” Then, just look at the person you want to hear from. If he or she has something to say, he or she will say it if encouraged in this way. If he or she doesn’t, then you haven’t embarrassed the person.
Meetings can be a very powerful way to communicate and solve problems. It can help in identifying the root-cause of a problem and dozens of possible solutions are generated, come to a consensus as group on the best possible solution, and create a written plan of action that is measurable in 15-minutes or less.
Manasi Annigeri, Faarah Dordy,
Purnima Deshmukh, Tanushree Trivedi
The four most common obstacles to teamwork- the real reasons why teamwork
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead
Incentives may be designed to block teamwork. Many organisations
still use a job-grading system that decides people’s titles and salaries
based on the size of the group they manage, i.e., their headcount and
budget. People are paid to build empires!
When this is the case, any sensible person would rather hire an employee
to do it within his or her department than seek help from a peer. While
this alone is not generally the major reason for resisting teamwork, it’s
on everyone’s minds and sets up a bias against teaming.
Real Reason 2: Culture
Culture is “the way we work around here”— the practices
common throughout an organisation. And many organisations have bad habits
ingrained in their cultures that undermine teamwork.
Two common examples are:
1. We make commitments to our customers, and then attempt to arrange teams
to fulfill them. Of course, there’s no guarantee that peers will have the
resources available to meet that commitment within the promised time
frame. When they don’t, people find a way to meet their commitments on
their own (by replicating others?skills and building their own
A better practice is: We line up our team members before we commit to a
2. In the spirit of customer focus, people feel that it’s OK to break
promises to peers in order to satisfy a client.
After all, we’ve got to be responsive to the business! As a result, staff
learn not to trust one another.
A better practice is: We respect commitments to (contracts with) peers
just as much as those to clients.
Contrary to popular opinion, culture is one of the easier dimensions of an
organisation to fix. The key is to focus on practices, not values. Note
that in this case, it’s easy for Randy’s leaders to say they value
teamwork, but that doesn’t mean their staff know how to behave.
Examples of clearly worded behaviours illustrate how to build a culture of
Real Reason 3: Structure
Structure is another common root cause. People think the only way
to get staff to work together is to put them under a common boss. Thus,
it’s common to find support groups reporting to one of their internal
“customers?and unavailable to the rest of the IT team.
A common example is infrastructure engineering, often placed within the
infrastructure operations group. Of course, server and network engineers
are needed on applications projects. But because of their position in the
structure, they typically think of the operations group as their only
customer, and thus they aren’t readily available to applications
The key to overcoming this obstacle is internal customer-supplier
relationships. When staff treat peers throughout IT as customers, just as
they treat business-unit clients as customers, cross-boundary teamwork
gets a lot easier.
Real Reason 4: Resources
The fourth obstacle to teamwork is the most common and the most powerful:
resources. Often, managers are willing to help one another, but
their staff’s time and budgets are fully committed to their own
This occurs when managers have their own budgets, and are expected to
satisfy their customers?demands as best they can with the resources
they’ve been given. Each manager sets his or her own priorities for
resources, and one manager’s highest priority may very well be another’s
lowest priority. That, alone, is enough to kill teamwork.
Poor teamwork is rarely a matter of interpersonal difficulties, or a lack
of knowledge of how to work together. This is why so many team-building
efforts produce sparse results.
The right way to build high-performance, cross-boundary teamwork is to get
to fundamentals. Find out why the nice people in your organisation don’t
team, and then address the root causes of incentives, culture, structure
and the internal economy.
Manasi Annigeri, Faarah Dordy,
Tanushree Trivedi, Purnima Deshmukh