Define the Team. In The Wisdom of Teams, Jon Katzenbach defines a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Discuss why this team was formed and how the team will work better than a single individual.
Get to Know Each Other. Start with introductions and a team activity. Keep it upbeat and tied to the team’s overall objectives. Some may get impatient with this “fluff” but, the better team members know each other, the more willing they are to trust each other. Without trust, a team cannot work together.
Review the Team Charter. Most teams are chartered by management to accomplish a specific goal or produce a tangible deliverable. Review the charter elements which include background, the goal, membership, duration, critical milestones or checkpoints, boundaries, logistics, and resources required. Be prepared for all kinds of questions — and when you don’t know something, say so! Some things might be open for discussion; others are “off limits.” Let the team know early on which is which.
Go Where the Work Is. Take a tour of the actual physical location where the work will be performed, put together, used, or delivered. Seeing the space and talking to the end users of the team’s product builds more understanding and commitment to the team’s goal.
Expose the Process. Create or let the team know the overall process, how the team will accomplish its goal, and how decisions will be made. Is the team really aiming for consensus — a decision everyone will live with and support upon implementation? Or are they making recommendations for management to decide? How will the team be making their own internal decisions? Command decision? Loudest voice? Majority vote? Consensus? Unanimous?
Clarify Success. Make sure the team has a clear picture of success. Is it reduced cycle time? Increased customer satisfaction? Producing an error-free report? Implementing a project within time and cost constraints? Ultimately, they need to know what “success” is. Having a clearly defined target helps keep the team on track and enables the team to celebrate achieving their goal.
Agree on Ground Rules. When people come together as a team, they go through a predictable pattern of behavior: form, storm, norm, and perform. It is perfectly natural to have your ups and downs — just don’t get stuck! Agree on some explicit ground rules about how the team will work cooperatively together and how they will manage the inevitable conflicts.
Agree on Meeting Rules. Where there are teams, there are meetings. Vow to follow these core meeting rules: use agendas; have a facilitator; take minutes; enforce your team ground rules; draft your next meeting agenda before you leave; critique the meeting to improve your teamwork.
Housekeeping. There are usually some logistics and support issues that must be addressed: supplies, meeting room reservations, percent of time devoted to the project, parking, etc. Remember, the little stuff bugs people, so pay attention to the little stuff early on.
Communicate Regularly. Discuss how the team will communicate and update progress internally and up the food chain. Agree on the intended audience, purpose, method, frequency, format, and location.
Remember, as you launch your team, you won’t be able to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” Be authentic and genuine in your desire to work together as a team toward the same goal. Teamwork is built over time, and this is the first and most important step in setting your team up for future success.