Wouldn’t it be great if every team was an extraordinary team? They all can be…and the first and most important step is to make sure the team is set up for success. If you are the team leader or sponsor of the team, you are ultimately responsible for creating a solid foundation for the team to do great work.
If you are serious about moving your organization from a traditional, hierarchical organization into flexible, nimble teams, think through the benefits and costs—as well as the many cultural changes that you, your employees, and your customers will have to face. For some, the changes are just too great, and teams may not be the best solution. For many, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
Any organization interested in moving toward a team-based environment should have the following things in place.
Team Leader Tips to Set Your Team Up For Success:
A Sound Business Reason. More than just the program of the month, the company has a core strategy that teams will deliver the products or services better, faster, and cheaper to the end customer. Teams are typically used to solve tough problems, improve wasteful processes, increase customer satisfaction, or strengthen the organization.
A Ready Culture. The climate within the company is ready for teams. People already cross traditional boundaries to get work done. They work well together and all indicators point toward “teaming” as a better way to achieve results with a higher degree of quality and commitment.
A Defined Approach. Before you decree that everyone should be on a team, think through how you will use teams over the long run. Some companies prefer the “amoebae approach” where the right people come together to work on a project for a limited period of time. Others prefer a more structured approach where people form logical process teams, based on the products and processes that they provide to internal and external customers. Or people come from various parts of the organization to work on a specific problem or task. Whatever you do, don’t put people on teams just because they sit close to each other! They MUST have some work in common.
Leadership In Front. The company’s leadership (that means you, buddy) or leadership team (you and your direct reports) needs to be actively involved. Be more than just supportive or “behind” this initiative. Be in front! Kick off the training and activities. Pop into a team meeting. Be genuinely interested in the team’s progress. Recognize and reward teamwork. Personally make sure the teams have whatever they need to succeed.
Start Small. Begin with a few teams working on important processes that can have a high impact on the bottom line. Pick your best and brightest people to be on the initial teams. Once you have some tangible results, it’ll be a lot easier to “sell” the team concept to the skeptics and cynics. You’ll also learn what works well and what needs improvement.
Team Charter. Put the team in business with a formal charter that spells out your expectations. The charter should speak to the duration, checkpoints, boundaries, resources required, guidelines and logistics of the team. Always have a challenging (but not unreasonable) quantifiable goal (e.g. percent reduction in cycle time) so the team can measure its progress.
Training. Working in teams requires a different set of skills than working independently. Give the team the knowledge and skills to be successful and to assume the various roles required.
Patience. Try not to micromanage the teams. If you have a strategy in place, a solid charter, and interested and trained team members, let the teams do great work. Just like anyone learning to walk, your teams will stumble and fall. Be patient, support them and coach them to achieve the team’s goals. Over time, they will become the nimble, flexible teams that will take your business to the next level.
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