Some Teams Just Don’t Want To Die

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 14, 2021

At one time, it may have been a high-performing team — doing great work with great people.  But now…it’s different…it’s not the same…it’s not as fun as it once was.  It’s a real challenge for teams to know when they should simply say “goodbye.”  

Look for these signs that your team’s work is done:

You’re Done.  Your team has accomplished the mission.  Hooray!  Congratulate yourselves on a job well done.  Make sure there are sufficient structures in place to ensure the issue won’t come up again.  Watch out for the team that goes “searching” for a new mission — just to keep the team together.

No Customer.  Take a look at what your team has been chartered to do.  Who is the customer and/or end-user of that final product?  Sometimes the customer isn’t there, doesn’t care, wasn’t ever there, and won’t ever be there.  If you don’t have a customer for your team product, no one is going to “buy” it and your team doesn’t need to exist.

Below Critical Mass.  How many people were on the team when it was chartered?  Now, how many are on board?  Sure, team members come and go, but watch out when critical expertise is not replaced.  There is such a thing as “critical mass” which varies from team to team — the minimum needed to get the job done.  When the team is at or below critical mass and cannot perform its functions any longer, it’s time for the team to stop the lunacy.  Get more help or disband the team.

Just Can’t Do It.  I realize everyone is operating on a shoestring and you can’t always get what you want.  But your team should be able to get what it needs.  If your team literally cannot do its job without a specific resource (be creative — how did they do it ten, twenty, or thirty years ago?), then go get it.  Like a dog, rabidly pursue it.  If still, you can’t get it, stop beating each other up and call it a day.

Floating in Space.  Every team should have someone in management who is championing their efforts.  The champion removes barriers to team success and provides resources as needed.  In the event the team loses its champion (e.g. job transfer, other priorities, or death), the team needs to find a new champion to link the team’s efforts to business strategy.  Otherwise, the lifeline has been cut and the team is just floating out in space.

Enough Already.  The team has been in existence forever.  The same people have been on the team.  They have been working on the same project.  They are tired, burned out, and need to move on.  There seems to be no end in sight.  Like a fatally wounded animal, just put it out of its misery.  

In some cases, the team wants so desperately to stay together, it ignores these signs.  It takes on a life of its own finding busy work and not really accomplishing meaningful results.  

The first step is to recognize the signs and then have a discussion with the team.  Oftentimes, it’s simply a matter of regrouping your energies and accessing the right people or resources.  Maybe it is time for the team to move on.  Listen to people as they share their opinions and feelings.  Recognize that there will be a wide range of emotions: glad, sad, worried, excited.  Reach agreement on the future of the team and ensure closure for the teams’ results and relationships.


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.  Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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