- The Secrets of Great Teamwork
- Important Team Building Skills That Employers Value
- WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
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Consider the experience of Jim, who led a new product-development team at General Mills that focused on consumer goods for the Mexican market. While Jim was based in the United States, in Minnesota, some members of his team were part of a wholly owned subsidiary in Mexico. The team struggled to meet its deadlines, which caused friction. But when Jim had the opportunity to visit his Mexican team members, he realized how poor their IT was and how strapped they were for both capital and people—particularly in comparison with the headquarters staff.
Establishing the first three enabling conditions will pave the way for team success, as Hackman and his colleagues showed. The solution to both is developing a shared mindset among team members—something team leaders can do by fostering a common identity and common understanding. In the past teams typically consisted of a stable set of fairly homogeneous members who worked face-to-face and tended to have a similar mindset.
This is a natural human response: Our brains use cognitive shortcuts to make sense of our increasingly complicated world, and one way to deal with the complexity of a 4-D team is to lump people into categories. This was the challenge facing Alec, the manager of an engineering team at ITT tasked with providing software solutions for high-end radio communications.
His team was split between Texas and New Jersey, and the two groups viewed each other with skepticism and apprehension. Differing time zones, regional cultures, and even accents all reinforced their dissimilarities, and Alec struggled to keep all members up to speed on strategies, priorities, and roles.
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The situation got so bad that during a team visit to a customer, members from the two offices even opted to stay in separate hotels. In an effort to unite the team, Alec took everyone out to dinner, only to find the two groups sitting at opposite ends of the table. Incomplete information is likewise more prevalent in 4-D teams. Very often, certain team members have important information that others do not, because they are experts in specialized areas or because members are geographically dispersed, new, or both.
After all, shared knowledge is the cornerstone of effective collaboration; it gives a group a frame of reference, allows the group to interpret situations and decisions correctly, helps people understand one another better, and greatly increases efficiency. Digital dependence often impedes information exchange, however.
When we walk into an in-person meeting, for example, we can immediately sense the individual and collective moods of the people in the room—information that we use consciously or not to tailor subsequent interactions. Having to rely on digital communication erodes the transmission of this crucial type of intelligence.
The Secrets of Great Teamwork
Some effects of incomplete information came to light during a recent executive education session at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Japan. One of the U. The Americans left the office at a normal hour, had dinner with their families, and held calls in the comfort of their homes, while their Japanese colleagues stayed in the office, missed time with their families, and hoped calls ended before the last train home. Fortunately, there are many ways team leaders can actively foster a shared identity and shared understanding and break down the barriers to cooperation and information exchange.
Returning to Alec, the manager of the team whose subgroups booked separate hotels: While his dinner started with the Texas colleagues at one end of the table and the New Jersey colleagues at the other, by its close signs had emerged that the team was chipping away at its internal wall. He emphasized that both subteams contributed necessary skills and pointed out that they depended on each other for success. To build more bridges, he brought the whole team together several more times over the next few months, creating shared experiences and common reference points and stories.
You can prime teams for success by focusing on the four fundamentals. Often this is done by reserving the first 10 minutes of teamwide meetings for open discussion. The idea is to provide an opportunity for members to converse about whatever aspects of work or daily life they choose, such as office politics or family or personal events. This helps people develop a more complete picture of distant colleagues, their work, and their environment.
By simply panning the camera around the room, they were able to show their remote colleagues their work environment—including things that were likely to distract or disrupt them, such as closely seated coworkers in an open-plan space or a nearby photocopier. Together the four enabling conditions form a recipe for building an effective team from scratch. But even if you inherit an existing team, you can set the stage for its success by focusing on the four fundamentals. How will you know if your efforts are working? We have found that these criteria apply as well as ever and advise that leaders use them to calibrate their teams over time.
The ideal approach combines regular light-touch monitoring for preventive maintenance and less frequent but deeper checks when problems arise. For ongoing monitoring, we recommend a simple and quick temperature check: Every few months, rate your team on each of the four enabling conditions and also on the three criteria of team effectiveness. The results will show where your team is on track as well as where problems may be brewing.
To see how your team is doing, evaluate it on the three classic criteria of team effectiveness. Then look at how well it meets the four conditions that drive the success of teams in a diverse, dispersed, digital, dynamic business. Underperformance on the criteria and weaknesses in the conditions are usually linked. Understanding the connections between them can help your team identify ways to improve.
This assessment draws on the seminal research of the organizational-behavior expert J.
Important Team Building Skills That Employers Value
Richard Hackman. If you need a deeper diagnosis—perhaps in the face of poor performance or a crisis—block out an hour or more to conduct an intervention assessment. Carefully examine the links between the lowest-rated conditions and team effectiveness criteria; managers who do this usually discover clear relationships between them, which suggest a path forward.
You can conduct both the quick check and the deeper intervention on your own or assess overall alignment by having all team members assign ratings separately. For a team-based check, you should compare results across the group. For a team-based intervention, you can increase the impact by holding a full-scale workshop, where all the members get together to discuss and compare results.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
Not only does this give you more-complete data—shining a light on potential blind spots—but it also reveals differences among viewpoints and opens up areas for discussion. Small example: Let's say we're talking about trust and your perception of me is that I don't follow the rules and I'm disrespectful to authority. In general you perceive me to be a jerk so you don't want to communicate at all with me. In our trust meeting, I told you I came from a single parent household and my mom worked very hard but wasn't home, and as a result most of my life was spent on my own and figuring things out.
Immediately in this poor example , you see that perhaps I'm not doing anything intentionally, I hate feeling managed and like to figure things out on my own. I likely don't know I'm being perceived as a jerk for doing so. So much good comes from these meetings. These trust meetings are good but they are much more powerful when the team can unify behind a common goal, a vision. Therefore, during these meetings it's important to reiterate what the most important thing is. If reducing costs is the most important thing to the company, then it changes what marketing plans we can implement and, in particular, might mean using our current resources and teams.
If reaching a certain demographic is the goal, then how does the entire team work toward that?
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In an era of digital disruption and change, Dr. Keys to developing team collaboration are:. To build positive, collaborative team interaction it is essential to recognize that a team has a life of its own, and that different modes of teaming can be just as important to collaboration and productivity as different areas of expertise are to the work that needs to be done.
Don Barlow, Founder and Owner, Finyl Vinyl , says: "I have over 15 years of experience in the garden and landscaping business. As the owner of a company, I have had to take the leadership role, organizing many teams in various functions. Below are a few tips that I have found useful in fostering team collaboration:.
Rick Lepsinger, President, OnPoint Consulting comments: "The focus of my work is helping organizations close the gap between strategy and execution, working effectively in a matrix organization, leading, and collaborating in a virtual environment.
As the EVP of a the Northeast Consulting practice of Right Management, I led a team of 55 professionals and worked with colleagues around the world to coordinate activities in order to provide service to clients. As the Managing Partner of OnPoint Consulting, I have helped improve the performance of cross-functional teams in numerous companies across several industries.